Eaton Goes Pro, Leaves Irish

Notre Dame defenseman Mark Eaton has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, foregoing his final three years of college eligibility.

According to Flyers president and general manager Bob Clarke, the 19-year-old, who was named the 1997-98 CCHA Rookie of the Year, signed a three-year deal with the Flyers as a free agent on July 28.

Eaton anchored the Notre Dame power play while totaling 12 goals and 17 assists in 41 games during his freshman season, ranking him third in points among CCHA defensemen.

“This is a top signing for the Flyers,” said Clarke. “We feel that Mark was the best free agent coming out of college this year. He’s young, he’s got size and lots of offensive talent. He is a great skater and is great with the puck. He just needs some experience. We think he is going to be a terrific player.”

Clarke said that Eaton will begin next season with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Eaton, a native of Delaware who played for the Little Flyers when he was young, said that this is something he has worked for his whole life.

“I’m very excited. I have a lot of friends and family in the area who will be able to come and watch me,” he said.

Prior to the signing, Notre Dame was set to return the seven players who make up the core of the Irish defense.

“Mark’s departure will present a great opportunity for some of the other defensemen,” said Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin. “Guys will just have to elevate their games. We still have a lot of players coming back to the blueline and are excited about our defense for the coming season.”