Ending speculation about his collegiate status, Rensselaer All-American Brad Tapper signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Thrashers of the National Hockey League Monday, thus relinquishing his final year of college eligibility. Tapper will join the club in September for training camp.
“I’m very excited for me and my family,” said Tapper. “To try to go down there and help them and to have the support of my friends, family and teammates is great.”
Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
There were several teams interested in the services of Tapper. Among those teams were the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs. In the end, Tapper chose Atlanta.
“It came down to Nashville and Atlanta,” he said. “The key word there is ‘opportunity’. I look at the depth chart and I think they might have room for me. They were the lowest scoring team in the league last season and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to help them score some goals.”
A junior from Scarborough, Ont., Tapper led the nation in goals per game this season with 0.84. He also ranked first in game-winning goals with seven and was among the leaders in the nation in points per game (14th with 1.38), power-play goals (11th with 10) and shorthanded goals (12th with 3). His 51 points (31 goals, 20 assists) in 37 games led the Engineers, who he helped to an overall record of 22-13-2, a third place finish in the league standings (11-9-1) and a runner-up finish at the league tournament.
Also the team leader in penalty minutes with 81, Tapper was named an All-ECAC First Team All-Star and a JOFA/American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) East Second Team All-American.
In his three seasons at RPI, Tapper (6-0, 185 pounds) tallied 65 goals and 51 assists for 116 points in 106 games. He was named to the ECAC’s All-Rookie Honorable Mention Team as a freshman, when he scored 14 goals and 11 assists with 62 penalty minutes in 34 games. He followed that with a sophomore season in which he had 20 goals, 20 assists and 60 PIMs in 35 games. Earlier this season, Tapper was chosen to Rensselaer’s Team of the Decade for the 1990s.
Tapper becomes the first underclassman to leave Rensselaer by signing a pro contract since 1985 when Daren Puppa and Adam Oates left Troy.
“I’ll find a way to finish my degree,” said Tapper. “Down the road I will definitely do that.”
Tapper is the second member of the 1999-00 Engineers to sign with Atlanta. Senior captain Brian Pothier, also a JOFA/AHCA East Second Team All-American, agreed to terms with the Thrashers earlier this month.
“It’s a good thing for both of us,” said Pothier. “It’s a big help for both of us, knowing each other. We know each other pretty well and it will definitely make things a lot easier for us when we go to camp.”
“It will definitely be easier with my roommate [Pothier] there,” said Tapper. “It’s great to know someone and we have each other to talk to.”
Thanks to Rensselaer Sports Information Director Kevin Beattie.