EAST LANSING, Mich. — It’s not everyday that a new captain leaves school before ever stepping onto the ice with the “C” on his jersey.
But that’s what transpired Wednesday morning as the Michigan State hockey program announced that Mason Appleton has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Winnipeg Jets, the same organization that drafted him 168th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The deal reportedly carries an annual average value of $758,333 per year.
Appleton was recently named Michigan State’s 72nd captain back in May, and was to be a centerpiece in coach Danton Cole’s program next year. In two years, Appleton put up 53 points (17g, 36a) as a member of the Spartans.
As a sophomore in 2016-17, Appleton led the Spartans in goals (12), assists (19) and points (31), earning the team’s Outstanding Offensive Player and MVP awards. The native of Green Bay, Wis. was named the Spartans’ Outstanding Rookie in 2015-16 after producing 22 points, including a team-high 17 assists.
Appleton’s departure not only robs Michigan State of arguably their best offensive threat, but also leaves a next year’s lineup one forward short.
Cole now has several options on how to proceed to fill that last remaining forward spot. He could use the scholarship vacated by Appleton to sign one last player or he could pocket it for future recruiting classes.
The issue with using the scholarship now is that there is very little talent that hasn’t already been picked over for next season. This makes the latter option the most likely course of action with Appleton possibly being replaced by a walk-on or grad-transfer for next season.
For right now though, the Spartans will have to face their first season under the Cole’s guidance without their leader and top scorer. A troubling prospect indeed.