|UNH defenseman Blake Kessel (photo: Josh Gibney)|
DURHAM, N.H. – Junior defenseman Blake Kessel of New Hampshire has decided to forgo his senior season to play professionally.
Kessel was a sixth-round pick of the New York Islanders in the 2007 NHL draft. He became the first UNH player since Brian Yandle (Milton, Mass.) in 2005 and 2006), and seventh in program history, to earn All-America honors twice in his career.
UNh coach Dick Umile said immediately after his team's season ended that he wasn't sure whether Kessel would be returning for his senior year or going pro.
Kessel, a 2010-11 Hockey East first-team All-Star, continued to backbone the UNH defense in his junior season. The blueliner ranked 18th in the nation for defensemen scoring with 0.69 points per game and was named a 2011 Walter Brown Award semifinalist.
He finishes his college career with 78 points on 21 goals and 57 assists in 114 games played. Kessel and the Wildcats finished the 2010-11 season with a 22-11-6 overall record and qualified for the NCAAs for the 10th consecutive season, advancing to the regional finals for the third straight season.
Kessel is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, who was a semi-regular at UNH's Whittemore Center for games when he was playing for the Boston Bruins.