This was a great year for Penn State hockey. The way the team played has surpassed all pre-season projections or aspirations, as the squad went 18-15-4 in its second year in the Big Ten. A great deal of the success that the team had in 2014-15 can be attributed to the play of Casey Bailey.
Today, Bailey's hard work and perseverance paid off, as the 23-year-old junior was signed to a two-year entry level contract with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs. He will become the first Penn State alumnus to play in the top hockey league in the world. The Maple Leafs' PR team announced the news on their Twitter account this evening.
The @MapleLeafs have signed free agent forward Casey Bailey to a two-year entry level contract #TMLtalk— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) March 21, 2015
Bailey came to the Nittany Lions after playing in 60 games with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2011. During his time with the Lancers, Bailey was ninth in the league with 60 points and 10th in the league with 27 goals.
During his three years in Happy Valley, Bailey was spectacular. Bailey will leave State College as the team's all-time leader in points (80) and goals (45). His career ended with a bang, as Bailey was a Hobey Barker Award candidate and his 22 goals and 40 points were single-season school records. Bailey's 22 goals are tied with Michigan's Zach Hyman for the most in the conference this season.
As per a stipulation when he signed his contract, Bailey will burn the first year of the contract by playing immediately. The most likely debut will be this Monday in Toronto against the Minnesota Wild. If you want to see Bailey play postseason hockey, it will have to wait, as the Maple Leafs are eliminated from playoff contention.
Here are statements from Bailey and Penn State hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, both via GoPSUSports:
"I'm extremely happy for Casey," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "He's a great guy and a great player who had a great year. He deserves a lot of credit for his commitment to our objectives with and without the puck, and for the amount of work that he put into the weight room this summer and throughout the season with (strength & conditioning coach) Cam Davidson.
We obviously would have loved to have him back next year, but at the same time this is a great step for our program. We will all follow Casey's success in the NHL with great pride."
"I am truly fortunate and humbled by this opportunity to sign with such a prestigious Original Six organization, the Toronto Maple Leafs," Bailey said. "I would also like to acknowledge how thankful I am for all of the love and support I have gotten over the years from my friends and family. I would not be where I am today without them. Also I would like to sincerely thank all of my coaches, teammates and staff at Penn State for getting me prepared for the next stage of my career."