Cal Petersen is ready to sign with an NHL team. Jack Eichel has done what he can to make sure the goaltender joins the Sabres.
Petersen announced Wednesday he is forgoing his senior season at Notre Dame so he can turn pro. Buffalo selected the goalie in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft and has 30 days to sign him. If not, Petersen becomes an unrestricted free agent.
"I feel immensely fortunate I was given the opportunity to attend Notre Dame and play hockey for the Fighting Irish," Petersen said. "The experiences and memories I have shared with my teammates and best friends both on and off the ice will be something I carry with me forever.
“This is the hardest decision I have ever had to make because of how incredible of a place Notre Dame is to be both a student and an athlete.”
Petersen leaves school having made 90 straight starts. He led the Fighting Irish to the Frozen Four this season while going 23-12-5 with a .926 save percentage and six shutouts.
“Notre Dame has given me the opportunity to realize my dreams, and I will be forever Irish,” Petersen said.
The 22-year-old finished his three-year stay at Notre Dame ranked first in career save percentage (.924) and third in saves (3,042) and goals against average (2.30). He is tied for third in victories (55) and fourth in shutouts (11).
“I am proud of Cal for taking his time and doing his due diligence before making the decision to take the next step in his career," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "Cal is a special young man and an exceptional goaltender. I have enjoyed watching him develop on the ice and as a leader. I look forward to following his bright future in hockey and in life."
Eichel and Petersen spent much of May together, representing the United States at the world championships. Eichel told the goalie Buffalo is a fine place to play.
“He’s a great kid,” Eichel told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. “I obviously told him that we’d love to have him. I just kind of gave him a bit of an earful about what Buffalo is like, how passionate the people were here and how great an organization it is.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got to do what’s best for you at all times, but if you have any questions, if you need anybody to talk to about it, about the process, the situation, you can reach out to me.’”
Petersen’s decision came as the Sabres signed another goalie prospect, Jonas Johansson. With spots available in Rochester and the new ECHL team in Cincinnati, there’s room for both.
Johansson had good moments in net for Rochester at the end of the season. It was enough for the goaltender to get a three-year, entry-level deal.
Selected in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Johansson left Sweden at the end of the season for a tryout with the Amerks. He played in seven games, going 3-3-1 with an .892 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against average.
The 21-year-old spent three seasons with Almtuna of Sweden’s second professional league, registering a 47-38 record with a .911 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average.
Meanwhile, the Sabres have until 5 p.m. Thursday to sign forward prospects Giorgio Estephan and Gustav Possler. If they don’t, they lose their rights to the players.
Estephan is one of the highest-scoring prospects in the organization. The 20-year-old had 35 goals and 89 points in 68 games with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League, then added 11 goals and 24 points in 18 playoff games.
The 6-foot, 190-pound center recorded 114 goals and 267 points in 281 games in juniors. He had a six-game tryout with Rochester following the 2015-16 season, putting up one goal.
Buffalo selected him in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
The Sabres drafted Possler in the fifth round in 2013. The 22-year-old winger has been playing professionally in his home country of Sweden. An ankle injury limited Possler to 24 games this season, and he recorded three goals and five points.