BRIDGEPORT -- Undrafted, wending from junior to the ECHL to the AHL, Brett Gallant worked toward a goal of getting to the NHL. He's just one step away now.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers' left winger signed his first NHL contract with the New York Islanders, the team announced Tuesday. He remains in Bridgeport, where he's established a niche since arriving in early 2011.
"As a kid, it's everybody's dream to get to the NHL," Gallant, 24, said after Wednesday's practice. "This helps you get one step closer.
"You can't ask for a better organization, as far as the way they've handled me, always working with me," he added. "They've tried to make me a better player, and I'm thankful for that."
Gallant's penalty minutes stand out in black and white; he's third in the AHL in with 174 and second in fighting majors with 22; he trails Providence's Bobby Robins in both categories and his cousin, teammate Nathan McIver, who's second in penalty minutes.
But his contributions, especially this season, have gone beyond that.
"His work ethic, how important he is to the team on and off the ice, his approach to the game, how much he's improved his overall game," coach Scott Pellerin said.
Recovering from last year's shoulder injury, Gallant said he skated more over the summer than he had in the past, working with junior coach Allan Andrews at home in Prince Edward Island.
Pellerin has been impressed with the improvement in his skating and positioning. He likes Gallant's hockey sense.
"He's very respectful of the game, respectful of his role and his relationship with his teammates," Pellerin said. "He's a good role model."
Gallant skated Wednesday with Chad Costello, Max MacKay and Brandon DeFazio as Bridgeport's fourth line plus extra forward. Bridgeport learned Wednesday that the AHL gave DeFazio a one-game suspension for what it ruled a slew-foot on Norfolk's Gabe Guentzel last Saturday.
DeFazio will miss Saturday's home game against Portland. The Pirates were supposed to play the night before in Providence, but that game and Friday's Albany-Springfield game have already been postponed because of the expected winter storm.
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