After regaining his form and backstopping Minnesota State-Mankato to a No. 1 ranking and NCAA tournament berth as a junior, following a disappointing sophomore season, goaltender Stephon Williams of Fairbanks on Thursday signed a two-year entry-level contract with the NHL's New York Islanders.
Williams, 21, was drafted by the Isles in the fourth round in 2013. He went 25-6-3 for the Mavericks this season, with a 1.65 goals-against average and five shutouts. In three seasons, he went 51-24-5, 2.01, .917 and 10 bagels.
Williams' contract technically will not begin until next season, so he will play for AHL Bridgeport on an amateur tryout agreement. Bridgeport, coached by former Alaska Aces bench boss Brent Thompson, has already been eliminated from playoff contention and has eight games left in the season.
Williams is the second Alaska goaltender in the lasts two seasons to leave school early and turn pro. Pheonix Copley of North Pole last season left Michigan Tech after his sophomore campaign and signed with the Washington Capitals. He's shined for AHL Hershey this season, going 14-3-3, 2.20, .923, with two shutouts.
Fifteen Alaskans have played in the NHL, all of them from Anchorage or the surrounding areas -- winger Casey Bailey of Anchorage, who last month left Penn State after his junior season, made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs last month.
Ty Conklin of Anchorage, retired and coaching in the St. Louis Blues system, is the only Alaska goaltender to play in the NHL.
Williams, who led Lathrop High to the state championship, as a freshman at Mankato went 21-12-2, 2.00, .924, with four shutouts, and was the WCHA's Rookie of the Year and first-team all-league goalie. But he lost his starting job as a sophomore, when he plunged to 5-6-0, 3.23, .862, with one shutout.
This season, however, Williams regained his form, and Thursday brought him another reward.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing