Maine Hockey Journal

Hart signs pro contract with Tampa Bay Lightning

(PHOTO: Tampa Bay Lightning)

(PHOTO: Tampa Bay Lightning)

LEWISTON – Brian Hart felt the time was right.

The 21-year-old from Cumberland decided to forgo his senior season at Harvard to signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.

“I weighed my options, and I felt it was the best timing for me to develop my game,” Hart said. “Just everything, from the way I have been treated here (at Tampa Bay Lightning development camp) and at school.”

Hart said he made the decision to turn pro in the spring after his season with Harvard ended after a 4-1 loss to the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He decided to stay in school and not sign with the Lightning in order to finish the semester out so he could graduate sooner rather than later.

It wasn’t an easy decision for Hart who helped Greely High School to the 2009 Class B State Championship with his older brother Kevin.

“A lot of my best friends are still there and are going to be their next year,” Hart said. “I am really fortunate to go to school with them and win the ECAC (Championship) this year. That was one of my best experiences in hockey. I am excited to move on to the next chapter of my life and be a professional hockey player.”

As a junior, this past season the 6-foot-3 212 pound forward had seven goals and ten assists in 37 games played this season. For his career, he had 18 goals and 32 assists in 98 games played.

He will likely start the upcoming season with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. Hart is excited to join the Lightning, who drafted him in 2012 in the second round, given that groom their players in the minors before bringing them up to the NHL level.

“It’s really encouraging seeing guys like Alex Killorn who was drafted a few years before me, but went through the process,” Hart said. “They don’t rush their prospects. They take the time to learn the systems and teach them, and it’s showing like you said in the playoffs this year. They have a lot of their own guys over the years to be huge producers.”

Hart has spent the last couple of summers training with Killorn in Killorn’s hometown of Montreal, Que. Killorn played for Harvard from 2008-12.

One person who was hoping he would spend his final season at Harvard was his younger brother Ted, who committed to Brian’s rival school Yale for the upcoming season.

“It’s kind of a bummer. A lot of our friends talked about going to (the Harvard-Yale) games this year and how fun it would to go head-to-head,” Ted Hart said. “But I am pretty excited for Brian and it’s going to be a great opportunity for him. I know he will do his best to make it count. He will use this opportunity as stepping stone and can better himself this year.”

Brian said Ted is getting off easy.

“That was a little bit of bummer,” Brian said of not going up against his brother. “The timing wasn’t perfect, but I hope he has the best experience as possible at Yale. He’s probably a little lucky because I wouldn’t have taken it easy on him.”

Brian Hart is the latest Maine kid to sign a professional contract. He joins his older brother Kevin, who spent last season the ECHL and recently signed a contract to play in the United Kingdom. Jon Gillies, who signed in the spring with Calgary Flames and Jake Rutt, who just signed with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL.

Add Brian Dumoulin, who has established himself in the AHL and Mark Anthoine, who played in the Southern Professional Hockey League last year.

“Brian Dumoulin was the first one to prove that being from Maine doesn’t hurt. You can be a good player from where ever you are from,” Brian Hart said. “We skated a lot in the past year and that group especially, developing together and learning from each other.”

Jake Rutt said putting school allegiances side everybody has each other’s back.

“We are building quite a network in the professional world of hockey,” Rutt said. “We are all each others cheerleaders when it comes to that. It’s really good obviously we are all rooting each other. It doesn’t matter what school we went to or whatever. Our base is in the state of Maine, and I think

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