MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens jumped at the chance to sign free agent Brock Trotter when the high-scoring forward opted to leave the University of Denver, where he was suspended for unknown reasons.
The undrafted native of Brandon, Man., who turned 21 last month, was leading the Pioneers in scoring with 31 points, including 13 goals, in 24 games when he decided to turn pro and make himself open for bids by NHL teams.
He signed a three-year contract Thursday with the Canadiens and was assigned to Hamilton of the American Hockey League.
His reasons for leaving Denver remain a mystery, although rumours abound of disciplinary or academic problems.
Agent Wade Arnott said only that it was “a private matter” and that Trotter was suspended for the rest of the term and would not have been allowed to play for the Pioneers.
“He was forced to make a decision,” said Arnott. “He didn’t walk away from the team or the university.”
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens director of player recruitment, said only that it was “a private matter between the player and the coach.”
“We know the player’s character. He’s a super-nice young man,” Timmins said. “We’re confident that this will work out. Players with the skill set he has are at a premium at the pro level.”
Denver coach George Gwozdecky also gave no details to the Denver media this week, saying only that “our players have private lives and I hope people respect their privacy.”
He wished Trotter well and said there was no problem between the player and his teammates.
Concern was raised when Trotter missed two games at Minnesota State last week. Then it came out that he was leaving midway through his third year at Denver to turn pro.
Timmins said Trotter’s adviser – Arnott works for the Newport agency headed by Don Meehan, they’re not allowed to have agents in U.S. university sports – contacted NHL teams to let them know the five-foot-10 180-pound skater was available.
“That spiked our interest,” said Timmins. “We spent a lot of time on Brock last year.
“We researched him. One of our scouts went to his home to interview his parents. Our prospect Ryan White played with him in Brandon in minor hockey and spoke highly of him.”
He said Montreal’s keen interest and the connection with White probably sold Trotter on signing with the Canadiens.
White, 19, last week’s CHL player of the week with the Calgary Hitmen, was drafted in the third round by Montreal last June.
Arnott said the Canadiens “did a really good job selling their work with young prospects and giving them opportunities in the NHL. He also really wanted to play for an Original Six team.”
He did not say how much Trotter’s contract would pay, but called it “very generous.”
“He’s very good from the blue-line in,” Timmins said of Trotter. “I can’t say he’s a shooter or a passer because he does both well.
“We’re happy to have him. He’s in Hamilton now. He’ll get settled and probably start playing next week.”
Trotter played a season with Lincoln, Neb., in the U.S. junior league before moving to Denver for the 2005-06 season.
A severed Achilles tendon ended his first season after only five games. Last season, he had 40 points in 40 games to lead the team. His university career ended with 76 points in 69 games.