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Early NHL Departures--Round 1

Only 16 teams are still playing hockey this season, which means the first wave of players leaving early for the NHL has already begun.

Colorado College's Jaden Schwartz signed with the St. Louis Blues, and skated in his first NHL game on Saturday with the first-place Blues, where he scored his first career goal on his first career shot. It's a fine start to what should be a spectacular career. For all the people who tout the CHL as a "faster route" to the NHL, only two players drafted behind Schwartz scored an NHL goal before him, and one of them, Justin Faulk, played college hockey as well.

Notre Dame junior forward Riley Sheahan signed with the Detroit Red Wings. Sheahan's season kind of mirrored Notre Dame's, in that they both started out pretty well, but really faltered down the stretch. Still, Sheahan started to show some of the elite level offensive skills that some people questioned. The good news for Notre Dame is that Anders Lee told the New York Islanders that he would not be signing with them this summer, and instead returning to Notre Dame for his junior season.

Nebraska-Omaha junior captain Terry Broadhurst signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Broadhurst was one of the top free agents out there--if I ever finish my top 50 NHL prospects list for this year, Broadhurst will crack the top 25, 2nd best FA--though I felt he didn't get as much attention because he was a Chicago-area kid, his younger brother was drafted by the Blackhawks, and he was excellent at the Chicago Blackhawks prospects camp two years in a row, so it was a pretty safe he'd be heading to the Blackhawks, rather than getting involved in a bidding war between teams.

St. Cloud lost junior forward David Eddy, who signed a free agent deal with the Calgary Flames. Eddy had a fantastic freshman season, making him a viable free agent candidate, but his sophomore season was derailed by a long academic suspension, followed by a disciplinary suspension--though he did average nearly a point per game when he actually played--and he was never quite as impressive this season. Eddy wasn't a great fit for college, so it's no surprise to see him take any offer he could get. If he can stay out of trouble, he has the talent to be a nice find for the Flames.

Meanwhile, one notable omission from the signings is Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz. All indications point to Schultz waiting until July 1, at which point he would become a free agent and be able to sign with any team, rather than signing with Anaheim.