Vermont forward Ross Colton has signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
He’ll give up his final two years of eligibility.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for me and my family,” said Colton in a statement. “I loved my two years at UVM; playing at Gutterson in that environment will always be special to me. Leaving my teammates is tough; they are lifelong friends and it won’t be easy departing UVM. However, I really believe this is the right time for me to start my quest to play in the NHL for the Tampa Bay Lightning. UVM has prepared me to go after this, and I am ready for this challenge.
“I want to thank my teammates, the support staff, and the coaches. I would also like to thank Coach [Kevin] Sneddon for supporting me, developing me on and off the ice, and caring about me as a person, not just as a player. Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank my family. They have always been there for me and supported me throughout my career.”
Colton earned Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star status following his sophomore season after posting career-highs in goals (16), power-play goals (8), and shots on goal (140). The New Jersey native was halfway to 100 collegiate points in just 69 games after posting his 49th and 50th career points against UMass in the 2018 Hockey East playoffs.
“It is never an easy thing when you lose a player of Ross’ ability, especially late in the recruiting season,” added Sneddon. “However, we could not be more excited for Ross and his family on signing his first, of many, NHL contracts. I know Ross struggled with this decision earlier, but after speaking with him last weekend, I could sense he is confident with this decision. On behalf of our staff and players, I want to congratulate Ross on this amazing accomplishment. I look forward to watching him play in the NHL for many years.”
A 2017 Hockey East All-Rookie Team selection, Colton closed the 2017-18 season tied for fifth in Hockey East in total goals, eclipsing his team-high rookie total of 12. He was also tied for 11th nationally in power-play goals, scoring eight of the team’s 26 tallies with the man advantage. Five of those power-play tallies came in the third period to lead the conference.
Colton ranked fourth in Hockey East and top-15 in the country in shots on goal per game (3.9) and registered a career-high 13 against Colorado College in October. Colton also won a team-best 52 percent of his faceoffs during the 2017-18 campaign.