Yale men’s hockey goaltender Alex Lyon ’17 has elected to leave Yale before his senior season and sign a contract with a professional hockey team, the New Haven Register reported Tuesday night.
Lyon, who went undrafted in the NHL Entry Draft during his three years of eligibility from 2010 to 2012, is currently entertaining offers from “at least a dozen teams” and will decide on an option by the end of this week, the Register reported, citing anonymous sources. Bob McKenzie from The Sports Network, a Canadian news organization, also wrote in a tweet yesterday that Lyon had interest or offers from at least 12 NHL programs.
Lyon made a strong case for top college netminder in the country in both his sophomore and junior seasons. Last year, he led the nation in save percentage, shutouts and goals-against average — setting new school records in all of those categories — and earned first-team honors for the Ivy League, ECAC Hockey and New England, in addition to being named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award, given to the top college goaltender.
After passing on multiple NHL offers following his sophomore season, Lyon finished his junior year ranked second in the country with a 0.936 save percentage and first with a 1.64 goals-against average. He repeated many of his sophomore year recognitions — first-team All-Ivy, first-team All-ECAC and being named a Mike Richter finalist — and added the honor of finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the best college hockey player in the nation.
With the departure of Lyon, who has started 93 of the 98 Yale games in his three-year career, the starting goaltender position would likely be handed off to Patrick Spano ’17, who has appeared in nine games during his three years with the team.
The Elis will also have two younger goaltenders who could possibly fill Lyon’s spot in the net in the coming seasons. Sam Tucker ’19 has been on the roster for the past year, although he did not play any minutes this season. The Bulldogs have also acquired an incoming freshman, Corbin Kaczperski, who announced on Feb. 18 that he will attend Yale this fall.
According to the Register, Lyon will be the first Bulldog during the 10-year tenure of head coach Keith Allain ’80 to turn professional before his senior year.
Another NHL contract out of Yale this year has already been made official, but for a player who has finished four seasons as a Bulldog. The Boston Bruins announced on Tuesday that they signed a two-year entry-level contract with defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16, who was drafted by the program in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The contract begins in the 2016–17 season.
“The Bruins have been very supportive while I have been at Yale and have helped me a lot in identifying areas of my game that I needed to focus on and make sure I’m working on every day,” O’Gara said. “They never pressured me to leave school early and understood the importance of getting my degree, which I promised my mom after these four years.”
O’Gara said he is moving to Providence on Wednesday night and that, beginning on Thursday, he will practice with the Providence Bruins. He plans to keep up with class work and graduate from Yale in May while simultaneously contributing to a potential Bruins playoff run.
In the 2014–15 season, the defenseman led all Bulldogs with a plus-minus of +15 and was picked as ECAC Hockey’s Best Defensive Defenseman, an accomplishment he also achieved in the 2015–16 campaign.
Forward John Hayden ’17, who led the team with 16 goals this season, is also attached to an NHL franchise. Hayden was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round of the 2013 draft. The Connecticut native did not comment on his own decision to leave Yale or stay for next season, but he expressed pride and encouragement at seeing Yale players competing professionally.
“I’m confident they’ll all have success at the next level and I can’t wait to watch their games in the near future,” said forward Ryan Hitchcock ’18, who represented the United States at the World Juniors Championships over winter break. “Playing professionally has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, so if the opportunity presents itself after graduation, I’d love to play pro hockey.”
Other than O’Gara and Hayden, forward Matthew Beattie ’16 is the only player on Yale’s current roster to have been drafted by an NHL team, having been selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Beattie missed his senior season and part of his junior year due to injury, making an NHL run unlikely.
Daniela Brighenti and Maya Sweedler contributed reporting.