The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed NCAA prospect forward Ross Colton to an entry level contract. Colton was drafted by the Lightning in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Colton spent the past two years at the University of Vermont, putting up 28 goals and 50 points in 69 games over two seasons. Prior to being drafted, Colton put up 99 points in 113 games with 53 goals scored over two seasons in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. In his second season with the Roughriders, he served as Captain of the team.
Colton has good size, he is listed at 6’0” and 190 pounds. He is a center, but it’s also possible as a left hander that he could play left wing as a professional. He should be expected to go to the Syracuse Crunch this fall to make his professional debut. Colton has given up his last two years of NCAA eligibility by signing with the Lightning.
For Colton, this is also probably the best thing for his development as a player. Vermont was not very good last year. There was also a bit of a controversy when a former Vermont player called out the coaching staff after the head coach was signed to an extension.
Feel bad for the players. Three more years of zero skill development which usually translates to less wins https://t.co/3uCgbcZeKL— Brady Shaw (@shawsy28) January 6, 2018
The Lightning have a good track record of developing players, and if this sentiment was also felt by Colton, then that could also suggest as to why he is leaving school early. Add in that he will be 22 years old when the season starts and the clock is ticking for him on his NHL development. He’s not ready for the NHL yet, but he’ll have a couple years to get stronger and improve his game before knocking on the door in Tampa.
Colton came in 30th place in RawCharge’s voting for the Top 25 Under 25 series last summer. He also represented a shift in draft strategy that we have seen carry through to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. It started with Colton and targeting sometimes overaged, NCAA bound players. By doing so, the team was able to build a relationship with these sometimes overlooked prospects to give them an edge in signing them later. It looks to have paid off with Colton.
Colton will be 22 years old on September 15th, so his entry level contract should be for two years.