March 21 2012 12:03PM
The Canucks announced today that they have signed their 6th round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, goaltender Joe Cannata to an entry level deal. The deal doesn't come as a surprise, as Lorne Henning told the Vancouver Sun a week ago that the team is "very high on [Cannata] and are in the process right now of trying to sign him." Guess that process if complete then!
Joe Cannata just completed his senior season, in which he nearly carried the Merrimack Warriors to an NCAA tournament berth that ultimately fell short. Cannata's masterful performance this season earned him First Team Hockey East honours. Here's the full press release from Canucks.nhl.com.
Read past the jump for more on Cannata.
Though they've produced several NHL prospects in recent years (Stephane De Costa, for example) Merrimack is a relatively new DIV 1 hockey program. This season was their best yet, and Joe Cannata was easily their MVP. Here's Mark McMahon on what Cannata has accomplished over the past two seasons in the ECAC:
Cannata will graduate as Merrimack’s all-time leader in wins, games played, minutes played, saves, goals-against and save percentage. He started all but one game in his final two years and allowed only 27 even strength goals (excluding empty netters) in 27 league games this season. The Wakefield native surrendered more than two goals only eight times this year, as Merrimack went 18-2-4 when scoring two or more goals. Cannata has a 2.18 goals-against and a .925 save percentage this season and a career goals-against of 2.47 and a save percentage of .915.
Very impressive stuff.
This season, Cannata allowed only 79 goals on 1053 shots for a Merrimack team that by all accounts was nothing special. Cannata, however, gave the team a chance to win every game, and they ultimately fell only a single game short of a tournament berth. In that final game against Rhode Island, Cannata was hurt badly in the third period, but stayed in the game and continued to battle hard, making several tough stops to keep the game close.
While it's likely that Cannata gets a taste of AHL regular season action with the Chicago Wolves before the end of this regular season, the Wolves are very deep in net with veteran Matt Climie and the NHL-ready Eddie Lack already between the pipes. As such the Wolves probably don't have a place for Cannata this season.
As such, it will be interesting to see whether or not Cannata ends up playing in the ECHL playoffs this Spring. The Canucks' ECHL affiliate, the Kalamazoo Wings, currently lead the ECHL's North Division and certainly a goaltender of Cannata's caliber could be just the thing to push the Wings over the top.
Update (11:15 am) according to Brad Zeimer, Cannata will spend the balance of the regular season with the Chicago Wolves, and he'll then return to Merrimack in order to graduate with his degree in business administration. Gillis, remember, likes his players smart!
Here's a feature from NESN about Joe Cannata from earlier this season (includes some highlights and player interviews):