It has been a couple of weeks since the University of Denver’s 2022-23 hockey season came to a close after a devastating 2-0 loss to Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In that time, multiple members of last year’s squad have already signed professional contracts to continue their skating careers elsewhere.
Kyle Mayhew, a graduate defenseman who spent five years as a Pioneer, was the first to sign his professional contract this off-season, signing with the Colorado Eagles. The Eagles are located in Northern Colorado and are the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, so Mayhew will be staying local to his alma mater for the next 12-18 months.
His contract is for next season but joined them this week for the remainder of the 2022-23 season on a professional tryout (PTO). The Eagles have clinched a spot in the playoffs but before he was able to play a game with the AHL team, he was sent to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies where he has recorded a goal and an assist in four games. The Grizzlies have two regular season games remaining before a possible playoff run.
Mayhew just finished his fifth season with DU and was a member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team and an NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete each season. He finished his collegiate career with 35 points (6 goals and 29 assists), a plus-51 rating, 80 penalty minutes, and 135 blocked shots. He was a part of the 2021-22 National Championship team and was an alternate captain for the 2022-23 season.
The 2022-23 senior captain Justin Lee was another player to turn pro this offseason. Lee, who was an alternate captain last season for the national title run, signed with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins which is the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for the 2023-24 season. He is finishing out the 2022-23 season with the Penguins on an amateur tryout (ATO).
Lee was a member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team during his last two seasons with DU. He played 133 games at Denver and finished with 15 goals, 26 assists, 41 points, 117 penalty minutes, 134 blocked shots, and a plus-49 rating in his college career.
Casey Dornbach is the third player this far to turn pro. Dornbach transferred from Havard for this season as a graduate and signed a contract for the 2023-24 season with the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. As a Pioneer. he played in all 40 games totaling 13 goals and 21 assists.
The previous Harvard captain played over 95 games with the Crimson while playing his 100th and 125th career games here in Denver. Throughout his collegiate career, he was nearly a point-per-game player, recording 124 points in 138 games.
He also earned Ivy League and ECAC Rookie of the Year Awards in the 2018-19 season. During his last season with Harvard, he was a finalist for both the Harvard Athletics’ Top Male Scholar-Athlete and the ECAC Student-Athlete of the Year
Magnus Chrona was the fourth senior to sign his pro contract. Chrona originally was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft but his rights were traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2021 and he signed his entry-level contract with the Bay Area squad earlier this week.
The senior goaltender started 32 games this season for the Pios and recorded a 22-9-0 record, 2.19 goals-against average, .916 save percentage, and four shutouts. This season he was awarded NCHC Goaltender of the Year as well as the recipient of the NCHC Three Stars Award for the second season in a row.
Chrona made his 100th career start earlier this season against Miami(OH) and he started in 113 of his 114 games at DU. He also was the starting goaltender in all four season openers in his career. He was also a member of the Academic All-Conference Team and recognized as an NCHC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete in each of his four campaigns. Chrona was All-NCHC Honorable Mention in 2021-22 and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team in 2019-20.
“Very thankful to our players, especially our seniors for all they have given to our program, what they have added to the pioneer legacy,” said head coach David Carle after the season-ending loss to Cornell.
The third player and first early departure to turn pro was sophomore forward Carter Mazur. Mazur was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings back in 2021 and signed his three-year ELC beginning in the 2023-24 season. The Michigan native will now be only an hour away from his hometown of Jackson, Michigan. For the remainder of this season, he will report to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins on an amateur tryout.
An alternate captain as a sophomore in 2022-23, Mazur finished his collegiate career with 36 goals, 39 assists, and 75 points and did not miss any games in the two seasons with the Crimson and Gold. With this contract, he will forgo his last two years of college eligibility and will not return to play under the lights of Magness Arena.
Mazur led the team and ranked tied for fifth in the nation in goals this past season, recording 22 markers while playing in all 40 games. Mazur was also awarded as a member of the NCHC All-Conference Second team after his sophomore season.
He was named Rookie of the Month in November 2021, December 2021, and March/April 2022 during his freshman season last year as well as Rookie of the Year. He also made the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team last season.
Junior defensemen Mike Benning signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers becoming the second Pioneer to leave Magness Arena early. Benning’s father also had a career with the Panthers from 1993-1995 so there is some family history coming with this signing.
Benning finishes his collegiate career ranked eighth among all defensemen in school history with 31 goals. He also added 52 assists for 83 points in 101 career games. He recorded his 50th career point with a goal on Oct. 8 against Maine and appeared in his 100th career contest at home on March 11 against Miami in Game 2 of the NCHC Quarterfinal. He also recorded 10 multi-goal games during the 2022-23 season.
Benning was a three-time member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team. He was named the NCHC Player of the Month twice this season in both December and February. He was also named a 2022-23 All-American (Second Team) and a Denver nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.
Transfer Portal Update
Three Pios have decided to transfer away from Denver after this season.
Freshman Tyler Haskins had one assist and two shots in 13 games this season and transferred to Minnesota State. The Mavericks just named Luke Strand their head coach after Mike Hastings left for Wisconsin.
Sophomore Owen Ozar also decided to transfer to another CCHA school, Bowling Green State University. Over his career with the Pios, Ozar tallied one goal and six assists while also being a part of the National Championship-winning team last season and being a member of the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team for the 2021-22 season.
Brett Edwards also recently entered the portal after playing four seasons with the Pios and deciding to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere. He ends his career in Denver with 16 points (7g/9a) as well as 84 shots. He also made the NCHC Academic All-Conference Team three times over the course of his career at DU as well as being a part of the 2022 National Championship team.
Top photo of Mike Benning courtesy of NHL.com