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UNH defenseman Eric Knodel signs with Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Whittemore Center at UNH during a game this season against Notre Dame
The Whittemore Center at UNH during a game this season against Notre Dame

The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced the signing of prospect Eric Knodel to an entry-level contract. The big, physical defenseman was the captain of the 2013-14 University of New Hampshire hockey team that fell short in its bid to advance to the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 loss to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East Championship game on Saturday.

Knodel played in 116 career games for UNH, amassing 20 goals and 41 assists. This season for the Wildcats, the West Chester, Pa. native had seven goals and 21 assists playing in all 41 of his team's games. His +16 was the best plus/minus rating of any UNH defenseman.

Knodel had a remarkable three-year career at UNH after sitting out his first season. He was an intimidating force on the blue line. He was paired on the blue line with recent Chicago Blackhawks free agent signee Trevor van Riemsdyk, the brother of Toronto star James, for much of the first half of the season.

However, van Riemsdyk suffered an ugly ankle injury in January, forcing Carolina Hurricanes prospect Brett Pesce to jump up. The pair seemed to find great chemistry together, and playing with Knodel seemed to benefit Pesce's development.

Knodel was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Draft out of the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers organization. He played one season with the Des Moines Buccaneers before matriculating to New Hampshire.