Damon Severson is one step closer to his NHL dream.
The Kelowna Rockets’ defenceman this week signed an entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Severson, 18, was the Devils’ second round choice, 60th overall in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
“It’s definitely exciting,” said Severson, a native of Melville, Sask. “It’s only one step, but it’s one of the steps you look forward to getting done. Now I can move forward and concentrate on the WHL season with the Kelowna Rockets.”
The Devils had a good, long look at Severson July 15 to 21 at the NHL club’s summer development camp and clearly liked what they saw.
“I thought I had a decent camp,” Severson said. “I tried to impress them the best I could, so I guess it went pretty well.”
Last season, his second in the WHL, Severson emerged as one of the Rockets’ most dependable rearguards.
In 56 games in 2011-12, he had seven goals, 30 assists and 80 penalty minutes.
With the distractions of his draft year and contract negotiations now behind him, Severson is ready to step his game up to a new level in 2012-13.
“With the draft, all the scouts and everything else that goes on, that can be a bit distracting. Now that’s over and done with, hopefully I can work at getting better, improving every day and helping the Rockets win.”
Severson, who was a ninth-round bantam draft pick of the Rockets in 2009, has 54 points in 126 career WHL games.
The Kelowna Rockets play their second straight Western Hockey League preseason double-header this weekend, traveling to Maple Ridge to play Victoria tonight before hosting the Royals Saturday night at Prospera Place.
The Rockets earned a win in Vancouver before losing in a shootout to the Giants last Saturday in Kelowna to kick off the WHL Preseason last weekend and spent the week beginning to work on strategy and tactics with the team.
“This week we’ve been going over systems a little bit,” said assistant coach Dan Lambert. “Last week we really didn’t have any chance to go over anything. It was just basically getting to know some of the guys and scrimmaging. This week is introduction to D zone and forecheck and neutral zone. It’s slowly getting them on the page that we want them to be on.”
The Rockets enter the weekend with a few roster decisions still to be made. The team is carrying 16 forwards, nine defenceman and two goalies as it heads into the games against Victoria. Young players will once again have the chance to impress Rockets management and staff this weekend as the team continues to build towards the start of the WHL regular season on Sept. 21.
“Our focus right now isn’t necessarily to win these preseason games,” said Lambert. “It’s to get them ready and to get them working through the process of getting better every day and being real good by the end of the season.”
With 17 players returning from last year’s Rockets team, defenceman Myles Bell says it’s already become a tight group.
“We have a really tight group,” he said. “We’ve been doing stuff as a team everyday and everyone is getting along. It’s awesome to see and I think it’s going to carry over onto the ice.”
The Rockets have two more home exhibitions: This Saturday as well as Sept. 15 against Tri-City before opening the WHL season on Sept. 21 and 22 with a home and home with the Kamloops Blazers.