For most Yalies, June 22 this summer will be a day off from internships, jobs and fellowships around the world. For winger Chris Higgins ’05, the first Saturday of summer might very well mark the beginning of his professional career.

June 22 is the first day of the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft, and the NHL Central Scouting Service has ranked Higgins ninth out of all North American skaters. The Eli freshman, who is a projected late first round or early second round pick, was ranked 17th among North American skaters in the Service’s mid-term rankings in February.

The Service released its final rankings earlier this week, two months before the actual draft weekend in Toronto.

Although Higgins decided to enter this year’s draft, men’s ice hockey head coach Tim Taylor said the Bulldogs’ star forward will not leave Yale until he gets a degree.

“Chris plans on staying here the next four years,” Taylor said. “The education is very important to him and his parents.”

If Higgins gets drafted, he can defer entry into the NHL until his graduation. Whenever Higgins enters the NHL, he must do so with the team that drafts him.

Although Higgins has one year remaining in his eligibility for the draft, the consensus Ivy League Rookie of the year decided to enter the draft this year on the merits of a breakout season. Last year, Higgins opted out of his draft eligibility to refine his skills.

In his first season at Yale, Higgins led the Bulldogs and all ECAC rookies with 31 points, including the game-winning goal against Harvard Mar. 1 that preserved the Elis’ playoff hopes.

“It’s a testament to his talents as an athlete and the fact that he’s put in so much hard work this year,” head coach Tim Taylor said about Higgins’ pre-draft rating in the top 10.

Providing an unexpected offensive boost early in the season, Higgins first gained greater attention in the ECAC the first weekend of December. Higgins had the game-tying goal against No. 9 Cornell and a pair of scores in the Bulldogs’ 5-0 thumping of Colgate.

From there, Higgins earned ECAC Player of the Week two times and led the U.S. National Junior Team with 10 points to boost his pre-draft rating.