UTICA, N.Y. - An all-time Hamilton great, a Division III Player of the Year, and now former Continentals goalie, Evan Buitenhuis, can add professional hockey player to his resume.
The 6'2" Burlington, Ontario native signed an amateur tryout contract (ATO) with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, Thursday.
"It’s a pretty surreal experience, it’s something I’ve wanted to do at least make it to some kind of level like this for a long time," said Buitenhuis via phone. "For the opportunity to pop up so fast in the last day was pretty incredible."
The Continentals' all-time program leader in goals against average (1.64) and save percentage (.944) filled out the paper work, met the players, and practiced with the team for the first time on Thursday.
"You can say it was a step up from D-III," he said. "It took me a few minutes, maybe 5-10 minutes to get settled in and then after that I was comfortable, I felt pretty good with how I was doing and felt like I belonged out there."
He said all of the guys on the team made it a point to come over and be extra friendly, giving him a comfort level there right away.
Buitenhuis will finish out the remainder of his academic schedule from off campus. He had planned for a potential opportunity like this, and took necessary steps to get extra credits, and work out the chance with the school to finish his final few requirements on the road.
He spoke about being a Continental for four years and how calling Russell Sage Rink and Clinton, New York home has helped him get to this point.
"Anytime you’ve got a chance to go to a place that you’re familiar with and comfortable with and spend a few years there and develop it’s obviously going to be good for you," he added. "So to spend four years at Hamilton getting as much playing time as I did, getting all the opportunities that the hockey team, Rob Haberbusch and even the school gave me to learn and grow as a person, I think that set me up for a good position to be in right now."
The man nicknamed "Boots" isn't sure of the team's long-term plans for him. With a spot in the organization opening up due to an injury to Maple Leafs goalie, Frederik Andersen, the future is unclear, but he is just thankful for the opportunity at this stage.
He did say the organization told him they had been scouting him for a while and that once a spot opened up, they pounced on the chance to sign him. That could be a good sign moving forward.
One thing that is on his mind is the chance to get into a live AHL game. It's no surprise where he'd like to play that game.
"I think the real strange kind of thing would be if I got to stay and actually come play at The AUD, that'd be kind of cool."