Center Patrice Cormier, the Devils' third pick (54th overall) in the 2008 draft, confirmed to me this morning that he indeed did sign a three-year entry-level deal (for an average of $875,000 per season) with the team last month.
Cormier, who turned 19 on June 14 and is eligible to return to juniors next season, said Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello came up to watch him play for Rimouski in the Memorial Cup and spoke with his agent, Tim Cranston. An offer and the signing came shortly after that.
"It's a very good thing," Cormier told me this morning after the early session of drills at the Devils' development camp. "As a hockey player, the first step is getting drafted and then after that to play you've got to sign. I'm definitely happy. I had a good year. I worked hard and I'm happy that the Devils signed me."
Cormier said he was pleased that the Devils decided to sign him this year when they still had another year to do so.
(To right: Pascal Cormier firing a shot on goaltender Jeff Frazee while Eric Gelinas defends and Scott Stevens looks on)
"When the team offers you a contract, you don't wait for second one," he said. "It might not happen again. Maybe you get an injury next year. Who knows if it will happen again next year? It's a good step for me moving forward."
Does Cormier view this as a sign that maybe he has a chance to make the NHL team in training camp in September?
"I don't really know how to take it besides that, for me, it's a sign that I've taken another step," he said. "You want to sign as quickly as possible and I did. It shows that they're interested in me. They want me to be a part of the Devil organization. Moving forward, I don't know. I'll take it day by day."
Cormier improved his stock as a prospect significantly with a solid 2008-09 season with Rimouski and a strong performance for Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2009 World Junior Championships. In 54 regular season games with Rimouski, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Moncton native put up 23 goals and 28 assists. He then added four goals and six assists in 13 playoff games to help the team reach the Memorial Cup.
With Team Canada, he had one goal and two assists in six games and stood out with his performance as the squad's checking center.
"Being part of Team Canada, being part of that team was an amazing feeling and winning it was even better," he said. "And we had a good year in Rimouski and we had a very good team. We went all the way to the Memorial Cup. We lost by a small margin, but we could have won. It was a good learning experience and a good overall year for me."
How did Cormier improve as a player in the last year.
"I got stronger and I got a little bit meaner," he said. "As a center, you've got to make sure that you do your job. My defensive game improved a lot and when I do that, the rest is going to come."
Cormier beleives the offensive side of his game will continue to improve as well.
"When you work hard and you try to do your best to help your team win, the offense will come," he said. "My biggest thing when I go out there is just to work hard and do the best that I can to help my team and, if I get a goal, I think that's a bonus."
Spoken like a true Devil.
Like other players who are here for their second rookie camp. Cormier feels more comfortable this time.
"Last year, I was amazed by everything, being with the older guys," he said. "You come here and you don't know what to expect. This year, I came and I knew all of the guys that were here last year and I knew the facility. I'm more comfortable and I think that helps. When your comfortable off the ice, I think that helps on the ice and you can just focus on playing hockey."