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NCAA standout Guentzel skips senior year, signs with Penguins

2013 NHL Draft - Portraits

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30: Jake Guentzel, 77th pick overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, poses for a portrait during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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University of Nebraska-Omaha forward Jake Guentzel -- Pittsburgh’s third-round pick at the 2013 draft -- has opted against returning to school for his final season, opting instead to sign an AHL amateur tryout contract with the Pens’ affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Guentzel, 21, finished 11th in the country in scoring this season, tied with Hobey Baker candidate Jimmy Vesey (among others) on 46 points. He also captained UNO this season and, last year, led the Mavericks to their first ever berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.

By signing an AHL ATO, Guentzel can start playing professional hockey immediately, without having to “burn” a year of any entry-level contract (which he’s yet to sign). It does sound as though an ELC could be on the horizon:

A diminutive skater -- listed at just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds -- it’ll be interesting to see how Guentzel adapts to the professional game. Pittsburgh has received a boost from NCAA products this year, as the likes of Bryan Rust (Notre Dame), Scott Wilson (UMass-Lowell) and Conor Sheary (UMass-Amherst) have all been nice additions to the lineup.