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WCHA Departures Begin with Lauridsen, Ness and Gardiner

The Philadelphia Flyers reported this morning via Twitter that they have signed St. Cloud defenseman Oliver Lauridsen to an entry level contract. Lauridsen made a huge jump in his development from his freshman to sophomore season, and became a top pairing defenseman for the Huskies this past season, but still has a long ways to go in terms of defensive positioning and gap control. Still, at 6'6", I'm sure the Flyers feel that they have a lot of to work with in Lauridsen.

Also, while not officially confirmed, strong rumors indicated that Aaron Ness will sign with the New York Islanders. Ness has had a disappointing college career to say the least after being one of the top prospects in Minnesota coming out of high school. The incredibly smart, confident player he was in high school seemed to disappear at the college level, as Ness tried to force things offensively and was often caught out of position defensively. Whether that was a result of the increase in speed in the college game, or the coaching he received at Minnesota, or both, is up for debate. Ness did improve gradually over the course of his college career, but has a very long ways to go to make it at the pro level.

Finally, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Wisconsins Jake Gardiner, in a move that was speculated well before the end of the season when Toronto traded for Gardiner's rights from Anaheim. Gardiner will likely need some AHL time, but the silver lining in his season ending so early is that he'll perhaps get some extra AHL time at the end of this year, making him more ready to take a shot at making the Leafs next season.