FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- On Thursday night, Jeremy Welsh was pretty dejected after Union College was beaten by Ferrris State in the semifinals of the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa.
Today, the excitement was palpable in the way he talked about signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, about getting a chance to make his NHL debut Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
"It's been a crazy day and half, that's for sure," Welsh said.
"I really thought we had a team that could win a national championship. I was a little sad after we lost that game. Then, a few hours later, I'm signing to play for the Carolina Hurricanes. When I woke up this morning, I was pretty excited."
As a free agent, Welsh, 23, said he was looking for the NHL team he considered the right fit. It was, he said, very similar to how he picked out a college when larger schools were after him to play hockey.
Two selling points for the Canes, he said: Ron Francis and Rod Brind'Amour.
"The way I approached it, I wanted to go where they wanted me," Welsh said. "With Ron Francis and Rod Brind'Amour, you're talking about two of the best centermen who ever played. What better way to learn as a prospect than to learn from two great players like that."
Francis, the Canes' director of hockey operations, and Brind'Amour, an assistant coach and director of forwards development, were in Tampa for the Frozen Four and got Welsh's name on the dotted line.
Welsh said he did not play with any of his new teammates in his junior days or know any personally. The Ontario native did note Union was beaten by Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAAs last year, so he got a good look at defenseman Justin Faulk.
Both Francis and Canes coach Kirk Muller described Welsh, who is 6-3 and 210 pounds, as a physical type who can be a banger and a presence in front of the net. Welsh doesn't disagree although he was more of a skilled player in his junior days.
"I feel I'm a two-way center who can do whatever is asked of me," Welsh said. "I just want to be in the lineup."
Welsh will be in the lineup tomorrow night against the Panthers. He's not sure where he will be used or how much ice time he'll get, but he's not about to complain.
"I've never taken anything for granted," he said. "The opportunity to play in an NHL game is exciting. I'll just go as hard as I can."