Putting the finishing touches on a business administration degree at Bemidji State University after a stellar four years with the NCAA Division I Beavers, Justin Baudry has inked a one-year contract for next season with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans.
Baudry, the La Broquerie native, burst onto the local hockey scene in a big way in the 2012-13 season as a 16-year-old, helping the Steinbach Pistons win their first MJHL championship that season.
Fast forward a few years, after spending two seasons with the Pistons, the talented rearguard spent a year of seasoning at the next level with the Fargo Force of the USHL, where he had 32 points in 58 games, before starting his standout four-year collegiate career at Bemidji State.
Those of you that saw Baudry play in those two years in a Pistons uniform, saw the talent as a 16-and-17-year-old, with his exceptional skating abilities and offensive skills on a nightly basis.
Such has been the development in his game at Bemidji State over the years, being named team captain prior to last season as he went on to lead the Beavers in scoring this year (as a defenceman) with 31 points in 38 games, including nine goals. It was the second straight season the smooth skating rearguard had scored nine goals.
With the AHL contract signed this week by Baudry, he becomes the first player to come out of the Pistons program to sign an AHL contract. Baudry signed a one-way contract with the Americans, which is significant because if he is sent down to the ECHL at any time during the season, he would be paid the same salary.
Pistons’ head coach Paul Dyck said he is not surprised with the success and progression that Baudry has made since he left the Pistons. "We saw signs in him as a young player with us, to play in this league as a 16-year-old is not easy, we saw his intelligence and his poise."
After the Pistons, Baudry spent a season with the Fargo Force of the USHL, "by Christmas time he was one of the captains of the team, that’s the type of leader he is."
In an interview with The Carillon this week, Baudry says he knew that both the AHL’s Ontario Reign and the Rochester Americans were interested in him. And that led to him signing a 25-game tryout this spring with the California-based Ontario Reign.
He played two games with the Reign and then as is the nature of these 25-game tryouts, sat out the next three or four. In the meantime, his agent was in talks with the Americans and when the deal was signed with Rochester, he returned to Bemidji to finish off his degree.
Baudry says he will not be joining the Americans for the balance of their season in Rochester, although the team has made the AHL playoffs.
"Signing this contract has been very exciting, I can now just concentrate on getting ready for next season."
Longtime Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said it is rare for a defenceman to lead a team in scoring so for what Baudry did this season was quite an accomplishment. "He has played in so many difficult situations for us, he has character, he is a jack of all trades and a leader, that’s why he was a captain."
Serratore added, "Justin takes a lot of pride in his game, works hard at it, has great offensive instincts and has an accurate, pro shot. In addition, he has a good stick, he is tough, level-headed and is very coachable, and he has a 3.9 GPA."
Bemidji of course, continues to develop that strong connection with the Steinbach Pistons and players from this area.
Steinbach’s Brendan Harms, who actually played for the Portage Terriers, also had a stellar four-year career at Bemidji, graduating two years ago.
"When I first game to Bemidji," said Baudry, "Brendan was there to help me that first year, and now, this year I was able to do that with Darby Gula."
Gula, another Steinbach product, named the Top Defenceman in the MJHL last season and was instrumental in leading the Pistons to last year’s championship season, just completed his first year with the Beavers."
And there is another one coming down the pipe. Kyle Bettens, named the Pistons’ rookie of the year this season, has also committed to Bemidji State.
As far as Bemidji is concerned, Baudry said, "It is a great town and a great organization, I am proud to have spent four years there. I will always come back to visit, they treat their alumni very well here."
In the meantime, he will be returning to La Broquerie for much of the summer and will be working out with his buddy Brendan Harms, both in Steinbach and in Winnipeg.
"I am looking forward to having a good summer and to be as mentally and physically prepared as I can for next season."