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Michigan junior forward JT Compher has signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, giving up his final season of NCAA eligibility with the Wolverines.

Compher — Michigan’s captain — enjoyed his best season with 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) in 38 games during the 2015-16 season. An AHCA Second Team All-American and All-Big Ten First Team selection, Compher led the nation in assists, and was No. 2 in points scored (behind Michigan teammate Kyle Connor). His assist total (47) was the most by a player at Michigan since Brendan Morrison set the school record with 57 assists in 1996-97. He finished the season with points in 26 of his last 27 games, including point streaks of 18 and eight games. He led the team (along with Connor) with 19 multiple-point games on the season.

He was the center of Michigan’s vaunted CCM Line with Connor on the right and Tyler Motte on the left. All three have now left school early to sign NHL contracts — Connor signed with Winnipeg and Motte inked with Chicago. The line was united for the first time on Dec. 4 against Wisconsin. In 27 games together, the trio accounted for over half of Michigan’s 136 goals (70 goals, 51.5 percent), and were a combined plus-89 in that span.

Compher was a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award along with Connor and Motte this season, marking third time in the 35-year history of the award that one school has placed three players among the top 10 finalists. Compher will join Connor and Motte on Team USA at the 2016 IIHF Men’s World Championship to be held May 6-22 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

He leaves Michigan with 118 career points (39 goals, 79 assists), becoming the first junior to hit 100 points at the school since Carl Hagelin (2010).

Originally drafted in the second round (35th overall) by the Buffalo Sabres in 2013 NHL Draft, Compher was acquired by the Avalanche in a trade on June 26, 2015.

  • Shanahan

    Geez, doesn’t anyone want to stay in school anymore?

    • Bones

      Have you been paying attention to college hockey in the last fifteen years?

      • Shanahan

        Yes, I have. It’s getting to the point that schools should start awarding associate degrees because no one sticks around more than two seasons. Everybody’s in a rush to get to the NHL, and not everybody makes it.

        • Sparky

          Schools like UND, MN, and DU have been dealing with this for years. It’s the reality we live in I suppose. It’s hard to blame any one person or institution. It definitely puts pressure on coaching staffs to do a bang up job in recruiting. It would not be so bad if the NHL-ready players were the only ones who left early, but so many kids leave early only to spend years in the AHL or some European league.

          • rampantlion

            Yup. This may be a necessary evil. If the NCAA imposed some big restrictions on this, I think we’d just see more of these top-end players choose the USHL or Canadian Juniors instead of D-1 College.

        • JCN

          Two points for you to consider: the sooner they sign and play a minimum amount of games in the NHL, the sooner they get to become free agents in the NHL. Burning a year or two years (or three years as in the case of Jack Eichel) off the start of your NHL service can be worth many millions of dollars a few years down the road. Second, many college players who leave early go back to campus over the summers to earn their degree. For an elite player at the D-1 level, it makes sense to leave early if the opportunity is right.

          • Shanahan

            IF you get to the NHL and get to burn off those games towards free agency, great. But if you get mired in the AHL or lower, then what was the point of leaving early? Not everyone is can’t miss (and stays healthy) like Eichel. I doubt Miles Wood is going to go back and finish three years of school at BC–even Johnny Gaudreau put in three years before turning pro, although obviously he’s smaller in stature than Wood.

          • JCN

            Why do you doubt Miles Wood will not return to school to finish? Many, many kids go back to BC to finish their degree. Brian Boyle is just one example.

            Nobody leaves school with the expectation that they will be mired in minor league pro hockey. Sometimes there is a very fine line between those who get a shot at playing in the NHL and those who do not. So many variables come into play that are out of the student-athlete’s direct control.

          • Shanahan

            Boyle put in four years at BC, like Brian Gionta did. Others like Chris Kreider, Nathan Gerbe and Gaudreau put in three. MUCH easier to do one or two summer sessions, than try to make up three entire years of school to get a degree. And sometimes players get caught up listening to people who tell them they’re better than they are. I simply don’t see anything wrong with another year or two of college seasoning for most players, but unfortunately kids today just want to chase the big bucks. Sometimes they’re simply not prepared to go pro early.

  • Bones

    Big ten is gonna be a cluster next year. Goldy, Bucky, Michigan and PSU could all be preseason favorites.