Nolan Valleau moved one step closer towards reaching his goal of playing in the National Hockey League.
The redshirt sophomore defenseman from Bowling Green signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks Monday.
The Blackhawks announced the signing Tuesday morning. BG announced Valleau had signed a pro contract Monday.
By signing, Valleau will forego his final three seasons at BG.
Valleau did not return a message seeking comment that was left on his cell phone.
Bergeron first learned the Blackhawks were interested in Valleau Thursday night when they offered him a contract. Valleau accepted the offer shortly after that.
“It all happened very quickly,” Bergeron told BGSUHockey.com.
Valleau played well earlier this summer at the Blackhawks’ prospects camp as an undrafted free agent. The 6-foot-1, 181-pounder also attended the Winnipeg Jets’ prospects camp.
Valleau’s loss is a significant one for the Falcons. He had two goals and a team-best 17 assists in 39 games for the Falcons last season. He also had an on-ice rating of plus-3 and 35 penalty minutes.
The Novi, Michigan native skated on BG’s power-play and penalty-killing units.
He seven points on the power play, all assists. The penalty-killing unit ranked second nationally at 89.8 percent.
BG has eight defensemen remaining on its roster, including five returnees.
The returnees are redshirt senior Dajon Mingo, senior Jose Delgadillo, junior Sean Walker, and sophomores Mark Friedman and Braden Pears.
Friedman and Valleau both were named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie team last season.
Three freshmen — Matthew Ferrari and Connor McDonald, Chris Pohlkamp — will make up the remainder of the BG defense corps this season. All three are expected to see regular ice time this season.
“(Valleau’s) only going to be a sophomore and he has areas of his game that need to improve,” Bergeron told BGSUHockey.com. “It’s a team game and it’s a chance for somebody else to step up.”
Defensemen Jordan Ernst and Carson Musser have signed national letters of intent to play at BG and are high school graduates, meaning they could replace Valleau this season.
But Bergeron said neither is ready to play college hockey and both will skate in the United States (Junior) Hockey League this season. Ernst is slated to join BG for the 2016-17 season, while Musser becomes a Falcon in the fall of 2017.
Musser turned 18 in April, while Ernst turned 18 in June.
“They need at least one full season in the USHL,” Bergeron said.
With BG starting classes next week, Bergeron said it would be “very difficult” for the Falcons to bring in a new recruit at such a late date.
“We have eight defensemen going into the season and we like all eight,” Bergeron said. “We need all eight to do what they do. The best six will play. We’re taking the mentality of next man up.
“He isn’t the first good player to leave here early and he won’t be the last. We’d better get used to it.”
But Bergeron didn’t rule out the possibility of bringing in another defensemen for the second half of the season during Christmas break.
“We’re always looking to improve our team and if that situation comes up, we’ll cross that road when we get to it,” Bergeron said.
Valleau will turn 23 in November. He came to BG after originally committing to Ohio State and sitting out a redshirt season during the 2013-14 season.
“I want to thank Nolan for his time at Bowling Green,” Bergeron said. “We wish him well as he transitions into his professional career.”
Entry-level contracts are usually two-way deals, meaning the player receives a higher salary if he skates in the NHL and a lower salary skates in the minor leagues.
The Blackhawks’ top minor-league affiliate is located in Rockford, Illinois. It also has an East Coast Hockey League affiliate in Indianapolis. The ECHL is considered to the equivalent of baseball’s Class AA