Defenseman Cam Lee is preparing to make his pro debut this season, but it won’t be with the team he expected when he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins this spring. When Lee takes the ice to begin the 2020-21 campaign, it will not be in the NHL or AHL but in the Slovakian Extraliga with HC Slovan Bratislava. The club announced that they have negotiated a loan with the Penguins that will allow Lee to play in Bratislava until NHL training camp opens.
Lee, 23, embarks on his first pro season after wrapping up an impressive four-year collegiate career at Western Michigan University. Lee notched 20+ points in each of the past three seasons, including 21 points in just 26 games as a senior, and led all Broncos defensemen in scoring in each of the past two years. The nephew of former NHL star goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Lee is a high IQ player who sees the ice well and moves the puck. Lee is unlikely to be rushed to the NHL like some other Penguins’ NCAA free agents, but if he can improve in some need areas over the course of his two-year entry-level contract, he could compete for opportunities at the top level down the road.
Easing in to the pro game by starting in Bratislava rather than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton may end up helping Lee in his first season. A former KHL club that is well-regarded and finished second in the Extraliga standings last season, Bratislava is a good team and a place where a young player can learn the game without feeling too much pressure. Former NHL defenseman Andrej Meszaros may also be a great mentor to the young defenseman. With that said, the team stated in their release that they have been disappointed by a slow start to this season, so Lee may also get the opportunity to play a key role for the club in the time before he returns for training camp.