Penguins sign Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell to one-year contract


Scouting is usually about chasing talent, but in this case, the Pittsburgh Penguins had the talent come to them.

One day after suiting up for Quinnipiac University in the NCAA Division I national championship game at Consol Energy Center, 23-year-old goalie Eric Hartzell signed a one-year entry-level contract with the Penguins.

Hartzell was a finalist for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the best player in Division I men’s college hockey. The 6-foot-4 Minnesotan posted a .933 save percentage and five shutouts in 42 starts for Quinnipiac, which was ranked No. 1 for much of the year and made its first appearance in the Frozen Four this weekend.

Quinnipiac beat St. Cloud State in Thursday’s semifinals before East Coast Athletic Conference rival Yale shut them out 4-0 for the title. Hartzell didn’t have his best game in the final, but his career .926 save percentage and program-record 1.96 goals-against average speak well for his pedigree.

Hartzell will likely report to the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The AHL Pens have two regular-season games left before the Calder Cup playoffs, but Hartzell figures to get at least a couple of starts despite the late stage of the campaign.

Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff have tended goal all season for the WBS Penguins, but Thiessen will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Neither projects to make the NHL club if they stay in the organization, with Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun signed beyond next season.

Hartzell, who will make $925,000 on the short-term deal, could at least provide insurance at the AHL level should Thiessen depart. Both Thiessen (Northeastern) and Zatkoff (Miami) starred in college before their pro careers, fitting the addition of Hartzell into the Penguins’ comfort zone when it comes to goaltending depth.

In addition to his Hobey Baker nomination, Hartzell was a first-team All-American, the ECAC player of the year and an All-New England Team selection. Since he wasn’t drafted by an NHL team, he was eligible for any club to sign upon the conclusion of Quinnipiac’s season.