Max Ellis signing with Maple Leafs among other Notre Dame hockey roster makeovers

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent
Notre Dame’s Max Ellis (21) shoots during the Michigan at Notre Dame NCAA hockey game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the Compton Family Ice arena in South Bend.

SOUTH BEND — Next season when you attend Notre Dame hockey games, be prepared to grab a roster when you enter the Compton Family Ice Arena. There will be a lot of new faces skating for the Fighting Irish.

Since coach Jeff Jackson’s No. 8 Fighting Irish concluded a 28-12-0 season with a 1-0 loss March 26 to No. 1 Minnesota State in the NCAA Albany (New York) Regional championship game, four Irish players have signed professional contracts and at least two others have entered the transfer portal with hopes of continuing their collegiate careers elsewhere.

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Notre Dame players on the move

The latest signee is a big one – junior right wing Max Ellis, the team’s leading scorer. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Ellis, who had a team-high 16 goals and 28 points, signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Hockey League team announced Friday. Ellis will join the Toronto Marlies on a professional tryout for the remainder of the American Hockey League season and upcoming Calder Cup playoffs before his contract begins for 2022-23. 

Late Thursday night, it was reported by the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald that Notre Dame senior Jake Pivonka, one of three captains for the 2021-22 team and center for the line which included Ellis and junior left wing Solag Bakich, would continue his college career as a graduate transfer with the Omaha Mavericks of the highly competitive National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Mavericks, who at times were ranked among the top 20 teams nationally, faded to a 21-17 finish.

Long-time hockey writer Brad Elliott Schlossmann, who writes for the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald and follows the transfer portal for “The Rink Live” hockey website based in North Dakota and Minnesota, also reported late Thursday that Notre Dame senior Cam Burke, a native of Boxborough, Massachusetts, will be a graduate transfer at Hockey East member Boston College.

Notre Dame's Jake Pivonka missed the first 15 games of the season recovering from summer surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Pivonka, who missed the first 15 games of the season recovering from summer surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, scored eight points in 25 games for the Irish after he returned. His only goal of the season was the game- and series-winner in Notre Dame’s 4-2 victory over Wisconsin March 6 to conclude the best-of-three opening series of the Big Ten Tournament. 

Pivonka, a fourth-round pick (103rd selection overall) of the New York Islanders in the 2018 NHL Draft, finished his Notre Dame career with nine goals and 38 points in 129 career games. Burke, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound center, had career highs for goals (eight), assists (11) and points (19) for the Irish last season and finished with 15 goals and 30 points in 120 games. Pivonka (.591) and Burke (.586) also finished one-two in faceoff-win percentage for Notre Dame.

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Schlossmann and other websites are reporting that Notre Dame’s 2022-23 roster would include two 6-foot-3 transfers – graduate-to-be left wing Chayse Primeau, who had nine goals and 23 points for Omaha last season, and junior-to-be defenseman Drew Bavaro, who led 14-20-2 Bentley of the Atlantic Hockey Association in scoring with nine goals and 27 points. The 24-year-old Primeau, who scored 29 goals and 72 points in 117 games for the Mavericks, is the son of former NHL player Keith Primeau. The 21-year-old Bavaro, who hails from Bradenton, Florida, is not related to former Notre Dame and New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro.

Senior center Graham Slaggert, senior defensemen Spencer Stastney and graduate defenseman Adam Karashik all have signed professional contracts since the end of the Irish season. 

Notre Dame's Graham Slaggert skates for the puck during the Wisconsin-Notre Dame Big Ten hockey tournament game on Sunday, March 06, 2022, in South Bend, Indiana.

Slaggert, the son of Irish associate head coach Andy and a South Bend native, signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Marlies for 2022-23 and is finishing the Marlies season on an amateur tryout contract. Stastney, a fifth-round selection (131st overall) of the Nashville Predators in the 2018 NHL Draft, signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Predators March 31. On April 1, Karashik signed a one-year contract for 2022-23 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, an AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, and is playing with them on a professional tryout contract.

Nick Leivermann, a senior defenseman who finished second to Ellis in scoring, announced earlier this week he would be returning for a graduate season at Notre Dame.