Ryan Stoa became the first to leave the Gophers program when he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche last week. However, this yearâÄôs Western Collegiate Hockey Association scoring champion isnâÄôt the only one who is fleeing the conference early for a career in professional hockey; a handful of WCHA players signed pro contracts last week. WCHA Player of the Year and Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes last week, meaning the Hobey Baker Award finalist will forego his final season with the Badgers. Much like Stoa, McBainâÄôs departure didnâÄôt come as a surprise to his college coach. âÄúWe knew from the beginning of the season that it might be a possibility, and that possibility got stronger based on his performance this year,âÄù Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. McBain, whom Carolina drafted 63rd overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is expected to join the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League for the remainder of the season. âÄúThe time is right for him to take the next step in his development and begin his professional career,âÄù CarolinaâÄôs Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos said in a release. The Edina native joins Stoa as the most prolific players to leave the WCHA early, but the duo is not alone. Colorado College sophomore goaltender Richard Bachman , the 2007-2008 NCAA Freshman of the Year, signed with the Dallas Stars, who drafted the Salt Lake City native with the 120th overall pick in 2006. âÄúHeâÄôs ready to take the next step into the professional ranks,âÄù Stars Co-General Manager Les Jackson said on DallasâÄô website. âÄúHe has an outstanding set of fundamentals and a very bright future ahead of him, and we look forward to his continued development in our organization.âÄù Three WCHA players also signed free-agent contracts with NHL teams. Minnesota StateâÄôs Trevor Bruess signed with the Washington Capitals, Alaska AnchorageâÄôs Paul Crowder agreed to terms with the New York Rangers, and Bloomington native and Colorado College defenseman Brian Connolly signed with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 2009 NHL Entry Draft will be held June 26 to June 27 in Montreal, where Minnesota freshman Jordan Schroeder is anticipated to be a top pick. Anderson inks deal With just 26 career points, R.J. Anderson went undrafted through four years of college hockey at Minnesota. But the senior defenseman became the second Gophers skater this year to sign a pro contract when he signed with the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL. A spokesman for Minnesota confirmed that Anderson had signed with the Chiefs and that the Lino Lakes native missed the Gophers banquet on Sunday to play in his first two games with Johnstown. With three games left in the regular season, the Chiefs are fourth in the ECHL North Division âÄî trailing division-leading Trenton by just four points.