Jayson Megna, the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s second-leading returning scorer, decided to turn pro with one of three NHL organizations and won’t return for his sophomore season.
Megna, who attended a development camp with Pittsburgh earlier this month, said he’d decide among the Penguins, Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets this weekend. He said he had six or seven offers in all.
“Obviously it was a tough decision for me to leave school after playing there for a year, playing with my brother (defenseman Jaycob) and my other teammates,” Megna said. “I love the city and the fans. But I made a decision that I think is best for me and my career.”
Megna, who made the WCHA all-freshman team in 2011-12 after recording 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points, becomes another high-profile offseason departure for a program that slumped at the end of a 14-18-6 season.
Previously, captain Terry Broadhurst — who would have been UNO’s second leading scorer after recording 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points as a junior — signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in March.
Broadhurst’s brother, Alex, a member of UNO’s recruiting class, never got to campus after deciding to play major-junior hockey.
“It’s a huge hit,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “That’s another potential 20-goal scorer. The guys we have returning who had just OK years — those guys who had outstanding freshman seasons but fell off as sophomores — are going to have to step it up and put the puck in the net. They’ve got to contribute more.”
Like Terry Broadhurst, Megna had offers to sign as a free agent once the season ended, but the timing wasn’t right.
After attending the Penguins camp with, among others, UNO teammates Andrej Sustr and Josh Archibald, the 22-year-old center felt that he was ready.
“There have been times when I definitely felt like I could play at that level,” Megna said. “To make the jump, you’ve got to be confident … and after the Penguins’ camp it seemed like the time to leave was right.”
Megna said the teams that have offered him contracts have told him that he has a chance to open the season in the NHL but to also be prepared to play with an American Hockey League affiliate.
“It would be great to get a foot in the door (in the NHL), but the American League would be great, too,” he said. “A lot of great players have started in the AHL and it’s still an unbelievable league. It would give me a chance to get the systems down and get more comfortable with the organization.”
Blais said there’s no chance to recruit a player to replace or match Megna’s production this close to the start of school. He said the Mavericks won’t rush any of their committed players who are headed to junior hockey into the program ahead of schedule.
“I think we can still be respectable,” Blais said. “With both Broadhursts and now Jayson, it’s kind of like losing a whole line and now your third line becomes more of a mucker line where you have less talented forwards.
“But that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute, play good defensive hockey and help us win games.”
Matt White led UNO in scoring last season as a sophomore with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points. Another junior-to-be, winger Ryan Walters, is now the Mavs’ second-leading returning scorer after producing a 10-15-25 line.
Archibald had 10 goals and five assists as a freshman, and Brent Gwidt also recorded 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) as a junior.
Brock Montpetit (6-11-17), Johnnie Searfoss (3-9-12) and Zahn Raubenheimer (1-2-3) are among the forwards from whom Blais is hoping for bigger contributions after sophomore slumps.
Blais said there’s a trade-off for bringing in professional quality recruits. He was just hopeful that Megna would have stuck around a bit longer.
“Everyone knows it’s a compliment to our program that we’re losing players to the NHL,” Blais said. “When you get the players the NHL wants, you hope they stay for a few years. When they leave after their junior years, we understand that. But you hope for the good of the program they stay with you for more than just their freshman and sophomore years. Sometimes they end up leaving too early.”
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