NoDak’s Lee, MSU’s McKenzie Leave For NHL

The Ottawa Senators snagged two underclassmen from the college ranks this week in Michigan State junior Jim McKenzie and 2005 first-round pick Brian Lee out of North Dakota.

Lee, a sophomore defenseman, went ninth overall in 2005 and the native of Fargo, N.D., also set career highs in assists (24), points (26) and penalty minutes (69) with the Fighting Sioux.

The 20-year-old Lee got a three-year entry level contract worth the rookie maximum of $850,000 and bonuses that could double that mark. He also received an $85,000 signing bonus.

“It’s time for him to move on — on many different levels,” Lee’s agent Wade Arnott said in the Grand Forks Herald. “He is very fond of his memories and his time at North Dakota and it will always be close to his heart, but he’s excited for this new opportunity.”

McKenzie, 23, was Ottawa’s first fifth-round draft pick (141st overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The St. Paul, Minn., native spent the past three seasons with the Spartans and last year set career highs in goals (12), assists (18) and points (30), while adding 56 penalty minutes.

His contract was a two-year deal and he’ll most likely start with Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y.

“This is what I’ve worked for my entire life – why I’ve had all the (shoulder) surgeries – to get this opportunity,” McKenzie told the Lansing State Journal. “No question, the financial situation was part of it. But this decision will help me try to reach my final goal, which is the NHL.”

Lee joins Jonathan Toews (Chicago) as North Dakota skaters who left school for the NHL with eligibility remaining this summer, while McKenzie is the first Spartan this summer to leave.