Calm Between the Storms
Welsh Signs with Hurricanes Shortly After NCAA Loss
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
TAMPA, Fla. When news broke late Thursday night that Union's Jeremy Welsh had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, perhaps the most surprising part was that Welsh — an undrafted free agent — chose Carolina over organizations like Boston and Chicago that were rumored to be interested and were seen as "more attractive" options.
Welsh, however, called the Hurricanes a "home run" and said the decision was easy. Especially enticing were the guys who courted him — director of hockey operations Ron Francis, head coach Kirk Muller and assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour. As a center himself, Welsh said he looked up to all three of them. All three of them put together great NHL careers, and Francis is in the Hall of Fame.
"All those guys have Stanley Cups," Welsh said. "All of those guys had great careers as centermen in the NHL, two-way centermen, good hard-working players. They're guys that I looked up to, so I figured if I could learn from them and surround myself with guys that I think play the right way, it'll be a better chance for success."
Welsh had the chance to meet all three guys prior to signing. He said Francis was the one who scouted him the most. Brind'Amour was in Bridgeport for the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn., to scout him, and both Francis and Brind'Amour were in Tampa for the Frozen Four.
"It's real flattering," Welsh said of their interest in him. "(Francis) is one of the best centermen to ever play the game. When a guy like that tells you he wants you, I can go learn from those guys and soak up their knowledge. I get to drive four hours in a car today with Brind'Amour and Francis. For a young centerman trying to figure it out at the next level, there's no better opportunity than that."
Welsh said he had narrowed his decision down to six teams that "were saying the right thing and backing it up contractually." He said Muller's involvement was one of the things that helped separate Carolina from that group.
"Carolina just blew the doors off. They had their coach involved in the decision-making, and that means a lot," Welsh said. "Sometimes scouts or general managers are watching, but the coach is coaching the team. He's the one who puts you on the ice. ... You want to go where you're wanted."
Welsh said he did take some time to wind down after the game. He met briefly with his family adviser outside the locker room to "get things rolling," then went back to the hotel for the team meal. After that, Francis, Brind'Amour and Hurricanes vice president and assistant general manager Jason Karmanos came to the hotel to meet with Welsh.
Welsh said it came together quickly, but that it had to because the Hurricanes wanted to get him into their final regular-season game, which is Saturday at Florida.
"They wanted to get me into a game, so that's kind of why the process was so quick," Welsh said. "Otherwise I would've had a couple weeks just to sit back. These things fall into place quick. Teams want to know. There's other guys out there, too, so everything needs to come together pretty quickly."
Welsh said he wouldn't play any AHL games after Saturday because he wanted to make sure he got a chance to finish his classes for the semester. Welsh will then take some summer classes and finish up his degree before next season.
Once Welsh gets back on campus, maybe he'll get a chance to relax for a few minutes. He said it has certainly been a whirlwind of emotions, going from the disappointment of Thursday's loss to the excitement of signing an NHL contract.
"Until this morning, it was a pretty wide range of emotions," Welsh said. "Signing the contract, I was obviously still pretty melancholy from the loss. But I get a chance to sleep on it, wake up, and today I'm going down to Sunrise, Florida, to play tomorrow. I'm super excited. I think it's great that I can just step in and play and not wait around all summer."