Travis Zajac is planning to further his education as a professional hockey player.
Zajac, a Winnipegger who recently completed his second season with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team, decided to leave school yesterday and signed his first pro contract with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him 20th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
The 20-year-old centre had 18 goals and a team-leading 29 assists this season for the Fighting Sioux, who lost to Boston College in the Frozen Four semifinal last Thursday in Milwaukee, Wisc.
"It was a tough decision for him," Zajac's father Tom said yesterday. "The Devils were very patient and allowed him to make it. He just felt the time was right (to turn pro)."
Zajac was en route to Albany, N.Y. last night and will report to the Devils' AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats.
The tentative plan is for Zajac to play for the River Rats tomorrow against the Providence Bruins and Sunday against the Binghamton Senators.
After that, it is likely Zajac will be promoted and join the Devils for the Stanley Cup playoffs -- though it is not known whether or not he'll see any game action.
The Devils have two Fighting Sioux alumni on the current roster, centre Zach Parise and defenceman David Hale.
Prior to posting 38 goals and 86 points in 91 games with the Fighting Sioux, Zajac spent two seasons in the BCHL with Salmon Arm, where he was the Most Valuable Player and named to the Interior Conference First All-Star team in 2004.