St. Cloud, MN – The highest drafted player in SCSU hockey history apparently felt he was ready for another challenge. The Detroit Red Wings announced on April 5th that they have signed first-round draft choice Dennis Cholowski to a three-year entry-level contract. Details of the contract have not been released yet but it is assumed it would be a maximum ELC. However, the unique thing about signing an entry-level contract at the age of 19 is that unless he plays in at least 10 NHL games next season, his contract will automatically “slide” and be extended for another year. Not necessarily a positive thing to have to wait another year for a standard NHL contract.
So, after a 36 game collegiate career, Cholowski moves on to the pro ranks and most likely the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, their top affiliate next season. In a particularly strong frenzy of early signings following the 2016-17 college hockey season, no less than 26 players have inked contracts as of April 5th prior to using up their college eligibility. This includes fellow freshman first-rounders Clayton Keller of Boston University, Tyson Jost of North Dakota and undrafted first-year goaltender Angus Redmond of Michigan Tech. No doubt there will be more to follow. Cholowski, a native of Langley, BC had a meteoric rise prior to the 2016 NHL Entry Draft being selected 20th in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings. He was selected along with two other players Tyson Jost (10th, Colorado) and Dante Fabbro (17th, Nashville) who were also selected in the first-round of the WHL draft along with Cholowski in 2013. It’ll be interesting to see if Fabbro departs as well.
Following the 2016 draft Detroit GM Ken Holland commented “St. Cloud’s a good program. We can tuck him away in college for 3-4 years. However long it’s going to take him depends on him.” Cholowski played in as many games as anyone on the squad in 2016-17 contributing one goal and eleven assists for twelve points. He had 14 penalty minutes and was -9 on the season. Having seen nearly all of his games during the season, he no doubt made some progress in his game and got physically stronger after a year of weightlifting at SCSU. But, at 6′ 1″ 180 pounds, he’s still growing, needs to get much stronger and still struggled at times with the size and strength of players in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. In other words, he has a way to go in his physical maturity and needs to shore up his defensive game before he’ll get an opportunity in the NHL. An effortless skater with outstanding vision, there needs to be some patience as he grows physically before he can be called the compete package.
Cholowski, who just turned 19 would not have hindered his growth at all by another year with the Huskies. It was assumed that was in the plans as no less than two weeks ago I chatted briefly with him and Jimmy Schuldt after the final SCSU radio show of the season and they claimed there would be no early departures from the Huskies. It just goes to show how quickly things can change. Entry Level Contracts are a gold mine for the NHL and the allure to join your peers as soon as possible in pro hockey is quite appealing. All we can do is wish Dennis the best of luck as he moves on to another challenge in his hockey career. It may take some time to reach his ultimate goal but I’m confident he’ll meet with success.
Update: Cholowski was signed to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Agreement) with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL on April 7, 2017.
- ELC Signing Age – 19
- Date signed – April 5, 2017
- Contract Years – 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 (includes Slide Risk)
- 2017 NHL Salary – $925,000 | 2018 NHL Salary $925,000 | 2019 NHL Salary $925,000
- Signing Bonus – $92,500
- Performance Bonuses: none
- 2017 AHL Salary $70,000