The Nashville Predators announced on Tuesday that they signed had signed Denver goalie Devin Cooley to two-year free agent contract.
Cooley took a unique path to signing his first NHL contract. He split time between the BCHL and NAHL in his final year of junior hockey, posting relatively pedestrian statistics, but showing enough promise to earn a walk-on spot as the third-string goalie for the University of Denver.
He only saw 20 minutes of playing time in his rookie season backing up Mike Richter Award winner Tanner Jaillet, but performed well enough in practice to earn the back-up job over a more highly-recruited fellow freshman goalie.
Cooley was thrust into the starter’s role the following season when Jaillet graduated, and his replacement, NHL draft pick Filip Larsson started the season with an injury that would hold him out for months. Cooley was spectacular in the starter’s role, posting a 1.85 goals against average and .934 save percentage in 20 games before Larsson returned from injury.
This past season, Larsson held the primary job for Denver, with Cooley appearing in just nine games. But Cooley was good in the action he did see, posting a .908/2.08 number. His lanky athletic frame and success at the college level drew the attention of NHL scouts, earning him invites to NHL development camps, and ultimately, earning him the contract offer from Nashville.
Cooley is still likely a bit of a project at the pro level. His lack of game experience over the past three seasons likely puts him a bit behind the curve and it will take some time to catch up. But he has the physical tools and has shown the ability to make saves, which could make him a very successful pro goalie down the road.