Jack Dugan had the chance to sign with the Golden Knights two years ago, but wasn’t sure he was ready and chose to go to college.
He could have turned pro last summer after his freshman season at Providence, but thought he still had unfinished business and returned to school.
Now, Dugan thinks he is prepared to make the jump.
“Individually I did everything I wanted to do,” Dugan said Tuesday from his parents’ home in Rochester, New York. “Now I’m ready to take that next step, and I’m in a good spot to where I can challenge myself and hopefully compete for a roster spot down the road.”
Dugan agreed to terms on a two-year, entry-level contract with the Knights on Monday, forgoing his final two college seasons.
The 22-year-old did not officially sign his deal, as he waits to see whether the NHL season resumes after being paused March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Teams currently are prohibited from signing players to contracts for the 2019-20 season. If the NHL changes that policy, Dugan could sign and play a game in the NHL to burn the first year of his contract. Otherwise, his deal would begin with the 2020-21 season.
”I had everyone that supported me here for it, so it was cool,” Dugan said. “It was kind of a culmination of a big weekend. I got the papers on Friday, my girlfriend graduated college Saturday and then Mother’s Day was Sunday. It was kind of a weekend-long celebration.”
Dugan, a fifth-round pick by the Knights in 2017, led the NCAA in scoring with 52 points in 34 games as a sophomore before the remainder of the Friars’ season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He ranked first in the nation in assists (42) and points per game (1.53) while being named a first-team CCM/AHCA All-American.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 194-pound right wing was named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the top player in college hockey, but didn’t make the cut for the final three.
Minnesota-Duluth junior defenseman Scott Perunovich, a St. Louis Blues prospect, won the award.
”I think I put myself to be in a good spot to be considered for it, and that’s all I can really ask for,” Dugan said. “Personally, I was OK with whether I received it or not because I did what I wanted to do and achieved what I wanted to achieve personally. I think I reached my goals for the season, so that’s all I can really ask for.”
Despite the snub, Dugan said it wasn’t enough to make him return for his junior season. Now, he’s focused on competing for an NHL roster spot.
Dugan admits he needs to improve his play along the wall, but he adds a physical playmaker to the Knights’ system.
“I think my playmaking ability is one of my best assets, and at the same time, I’ve also tried over my career to be able to play multiple styles,” Dugan said. “If the puck’s not going in the net or I’m not able to hit the tape on some of these passes, then I definitely know I’ll be able to lay some hits and get physical in front of the net with some guys, maybe get under some guys’ skin.”
Dugan’s immediate path to the NHL is blocked by right wings Mark Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch.
If he doesn’t make the Knights next season, Dugan would start his pro career with the Knights’ new American Hockey League affiliate in Henderson.
”I’ve been lucky enough to get out there for three development camps, and every time I go back, I enjoy it more and more,” Dugan said. “I really can’t wait. However it works out, either way I’m hoping to be in Vegas, and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Jack Dugan file
Position: Right wing
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
Drafted: Fifth round in 2017 (No. 142 overall)
Stats: 10 goals, 42 assists, 52 points in 34 games to lead NCAA in scoring