Westport native Michael Paliotta, 21, took the next step towards a possible NHL future on Thursday, agreeing to a two-year entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The defenseman has starred at the University of Vermont for the last four years.

The Blackhawks drafted Paliotta in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Paliotta went on to play four years with the Catamounts, amassing 83 points in 144 career games.

Paliotta (27 points) emerged as a junior last year, helping the Catamounts qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. 2014-2015 was his finest season statistically, as he led the team with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 41 games and earned Second Team All-Hockey East Honors. Vermont was recently eliminated in the Hockey East semifinals, ending its season at 22-15-4.

Paliotta, who attended Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has also represented USA Hockey at many levels, including with the U18 team that won a goal medal at the 2011 World Championships.

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