Stalberg going Pro

Number 18 played has last game in the green and gold of the Catamounts.Less than one week after the Cats fell to eventual National Champions Boston University in the Frozen Four, junior Viktor Stålberg announced that he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL.”After speaking with my family, teammates, and coaching staff, I have decided to sign a professional contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Stålberg said. “Although an extremely difficult decision to leave school early, it’s a dream come true for me; one that every player hopes to fulfill.”Stålberg left early Tuesday morning to join the Maple Leaf’s AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies, who are currently in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Marlies begin the playoffs on Wednesday night against the Manitoba Moose.”Viktor was one of the best players in the NCAA this season,” Maple Leafs president and GM Brian Burke said. “He’s been able to perform in pressure situations and has been very consistent at both ends of the ice. We look forward to adding his size and speed to our organization.”In joining the Marlies, Stålberg will get a chance to play with a fellow Catamount as 2006 graduate Jaime Sifers is already a member of the squad.”We’re proud of Vik,” head coach Kevin Sneddon said. “This is a great situation for Viktor to realize a lifelong dream and have a great chance of achieving that next year. He is one of the greatest players to wear the green and gold here at Vermont.”Toronto is probably one of the best teams to be affiliated with right now because you are going to go through a lot of rebuilding, giving younger players an opportunity,” he said.Leaving college was not an easy decision for Stalberg.  While he is joining the Maple Leafs organization he still plans to finish up his degree at UVM through summer and online courses.”I couldn’t have accomplished this without the support of my family, friends, teammates and the coaches and staff here at UVM,” Stålberg said. “The University of Vermont provided me with the necessary resources on and off the ice to excel in the classroom, on the ice, in the weight room and within the great city of Burlington.”Stålberg lead the Cats in goals (24), assists (22) and points (46) this season and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker. He was also the first Cat to be named to the All-American team since fellow NHLer Martin St. Louis in 1997.The Cats finished with a record of 22-12-5 on the season. This year marked their first NCAA Tournament since 1997 and first Frozen Four appearance since 1996.Stålberg becomes the fourth Catamount in as many years to make the jump to the pros and he becomes the ninth former Vermont player to hold an NHL contract.Combined with their trip to the Frozen Four, Sneddon says that Stalberg’s jump to the NHL says a lot about the current state of the program.”[We can say] come get a great education at the University of Vermont and at the same time try to fulfill your dream of playing in the National Hockey League,” Sneddon said.  “Those are positives for us.”Stålberg will join already-departing seniors Dean Strong, Peter Lenes and Corey Carlson on the list of players Sneddon will be looking to replace.Check out Tuesday’s paper for a complete outlook on the Catamount men’s hockey team as they head into next season.