By Mason Lyttle
JANESVILLE, WI – Former Jets defenseman Ruslan Pedan will forgo his final year of collegiate eligibility at Bemidji State University to begin his professional hockey career.
The 21-year-old blueliner signed a contract with HC Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League earlier this week, giving Pedan the opportunity to stay in his home country of Russia for the start of his pro career.
“It’s great,” Pedan said of the prospect of playing in Russia. “It’s been something I’ve wanted for a long time, so for me to be home and play in such a great league is a dream come true.”
Pedan played two years in the NAHL, both for Joe Dibble. After debuting as a rookie with the Springfield Jr. Blues in 2011-12, Pedan followed Dibble up I-39 to finish his junior career in Janesville. The 2012-13 campaign was a huge step forward for the offensively-talented rearguard as he netted 11 goals and added 22 assists for 33 points in 44 games, ultimately earning his Division I commitment to Bemidji.
“Ruslan was an outstanding talent here in Janesville,” said Dibble. “He was a massive part of our power play, whether as a trigger or as a setup guy. That’s just part of the package he brings to a club. He’s a skilled, strong, smart defenseman who can step up and contribute at the pro level.”
The Moscow native saw action in every game in each of his three seasons with coach Tom Serratore’s Beavers, posting 32 career points in 115 games. He was a two-time member of the WCHA All-Academic Team, and earned honors as a WCHA Scholar-Athlete in 2015-16. Pedan identified his defensive zone play as his biggest improvement while in the NCAA ranks.
“College hockey is definitely a level where you learn your weak spots and what you need to work on,” he said. “The coaches did a great job of working with me on my defensive zone play. I grew as a player a lot playing for the Beavers and want to thank all my coaches for that.”
HC Sochi finished fourth in the KHL’s Western Conference with a 30-16-14 record last season, its second in the league. The team is coached by Vyacheslav Butsayev, a 132-game NHL veteran who captured Olympic Gold in 1992.
“We have a great coaching staff here,” said Pedan, whose brother Andrei just posted a career-high 21 points with the Utica Comets in his fourth season in the American Hockey League. “It definitely made this move a no-brainer for me. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from the staff.”
Pedan’s signing extends a banner offseason for the Janesville Jets, particularly in the realm of professional leagues. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine became the club’s first ever NHL draft pick in June when he was selected in the 3rd round, 75th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes. In July, LaFontaine was one of four former Jets, along with Conor Lemirande (Pittsburgh Penguins), Grant Frederic (St. Louis Blues), and Alec McCrea (Winnipeg Jets), to appear in NHL prospect development camps.
“Keep working hard and things will go your way,” advised Pedan to junior players. “Scouts are watching every single step you take, so there are no off days when you can relax and think, “maybe I’ll have a better chance next time.””
Asked if he had a message for Jets fans, Pedan kept it short and sweet.
“Thanks to all the fans for your support,” he said. “Once a Jet, always a Jet!”
Contact the Janesville Jets’ front office at (608) 752-JETS, or go to www.janesvillejets.com for the regular season schedule, season ticket information, and sponsorship opportunities. Stay connected to the Jets through Facebook (/janesvillehockey) and Twitter (@JanesvilleJets1).
— JANESVILLE JETS —