MEN’S HOCKEY: Beavers’ Will Zmolek realizes pro dream with Philadelphia Flyers
"This has been a dream of mine ever since I started hockey," Zmolek said. "I think it’s every kid’s dream. With (it) being so close, I can’t really describe how I’m feeling with how excited I am.”
BEMIDJI – A member of the Bemidji State men’s hockey team is moving on up.
The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers announced on Tuesday that they had signed BSU senior defenseman Will Zmolek to a one-year entry-level contract that will commence with the 2023-24 season. Zmolek is scheduled to report to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley for the remainder of the 2022-23 season.
“Yesterday, my agent gave me a call and said, ‘The Flyers offered you,’” Zmolek recounted. “‘Take a little time to think about it.’ I called my parents right away, told them. And then it was a pretty easy decision for me to go there. So I'm looking forward to getting down to Lehigh Valley and getting back after it.
“… This has been a dream of mine ever since I started hockey. I think it’s every kid’s dream. With (it) being so close, I can’t really describe how I’m feeling with how excited I am.”
It’s a quick turnaround for Zmolek, whose season with the Beavers ended just three days ago after a sweep at the hands of Northern Michigan in the CCHA Quarterfinals.
“Definitely highs and lows,” Zmolek said. “Obviously we wanted that one Saturday, try and go to a Sunday, force a Game 3. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, puck doesn’t bounce your way. It was an unfortunate way to end. But the high (comes) when teams start calling, and you hear from them. It’s exciting stuff now.”
In his senior season, Zmolek finished third in the country in minutes per game, teaming with defensive tandem partner Elias Rosén to power Bemidji State’s blue line. Both players were among the national leaders in minutes all year long, and BSU head coach Tom Serratore will miss the leadership and stellar performance Zmolek brought to the table.
“I'm excited for Will and this next journey for him,” Serratore said. “It's well-deserved and couldn’t have happened to a better kid. He's been just a Beaver through and through. He never once shortchanged the game, he's worked on his game, and it's really good to see. I'm excited to watch him over the course of the next couple of weeks to see that transition.”
Fellow senior Rosén, who competed alongside Zmolek for four years, finds joy in seeing his defensive corpsman matriculating to bigger things in his hockey career, though he acknowledged he’ll miss his blue line confidant moving forward.
“All the guys, we were hanging out,” Rosén said. “We knew he had some calls to make and stuff. But he came into the room with the guys and said, ‘I’m probably signing.’ So it was a fun moment for the guys, and especially for him. He’s such a good guy and deserves the world. It’s perfect for him to get the opportunity he deserves.”
Zmolek will join Lehigh Valley ahead of its trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a night matchup on Friday, March 10, before returning to PPL Center in Lehigh Valley for a five-game homestand that starts on Saturday, March 11.