In general, people play college sports before playing professionally. For AHL veteran Graham Black, that isn’t the case. Black was included today as part of the recruiting class for the University of Calgary, CUSN’s Victor Findlay reports. Findlay adds that while Black is ineligible to compete this season, he will be back on the ice in 2018-19 for the Dinos.
The “big surprise” of the class announcement, Black has played in 131 AHL games in the last four years after leaving the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. Black, 24, was a fifth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2012 and looked ready for the next level after scoring 97 points in 69 games for the Broncos in 2013-14. The scoring center signed a three-year ELC with New Jersey in 2014, but his production fell off in the minors. Through two seasons with the AHL’s Albany Devils, Black had just 23 points in 98 games. Last summer, he was shipped alongside Paul Thompson to the Florida Panthers as the meager return for the Devils taking on Marc Savard’s contract in exchange for a second-round pick as well. While Thompson found a home in South Florida, skating in 21 games with the Panthers, Black never got past the bench. He registered eight points in 33 games with the Panthers’ affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, and watched several games from the press box.
The Panthers did not tender Black a qualifying offer this off-season, making him an unrestricted free agent, but with so little scoring to show for at the pro level, it seems as though Black made the decision to move on from pro hockey. The Regina native will head back up north, far from Florida, to get an education while still playing hockey, something he could not have done in the United States. Meanwhile, the University of Calgary will have the rare opportunity of having a veteran pro to lead their college squad. It’s a win-win for both parties and a fresh start for Black as he embarks on a unique career path.