With the college hockey season winding down and some teams already done for the year after missing out on the postseason, the NCAA free agent season is upon us.
Undrafted players currently too old to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft and playing in U.S. college hockey (or anywhere in North America) are eligible to be signed to entry-level contracts as unrestricted free agents. They can sign deals, most often at two years, up to the maximum allowed under the entry-level system in accordance with the previous draft. There used to be a graduated scale, but in the new CBA, the maximum ELC allowed from 2011 until 2022 is $925,000 annually.
Being a college free agent for some players is more advantageous than actually getting drafted. Players have some leverage in that they are good, cheap investments for a team. That means there’s a pretty large market for a lot of the higher-end college UFAs. Guys that are juniors have the leverage of going back to school another year and trying their hand the next year if they don’t find the offers appetizing enough. That puts any number of offers on the table. Beyond the max ELC, a team can offer immediate NHL playing time.
This year’s free agent crop doesn’t have quite the buzz of last year’s which featured two of the hottest undrafted free agents to come out of college hockey in the last two years (Justin Schultz drafted UFA buzz may never be topped). There are no Danny DeKeysers or Andrej Sustrs to bring all 30 teams to the table this season, but teams looking for value are going to find some quality players in the mix.
Some college free agents are going to be actual NHL prospects that have a chance at making the big club over the next few years. More often than not, however, there are guys that will fill out weakened prospect pipelines and provide minor league depth if nothing else. Are there some late bloomers in this mix that could make an NHL impact? Sure. It’s hard to know, unlike last year when DeKeyser and Sustr were so clearly top-end prospects. Either way, it’s a fun time of year to watch where these players end up.
With the signings already underway, bookmark this page for instant analysis on every college free agent signing an NHL contract from now until April. Also, keep track of a list of UFAs to watch below.
(Updated April 24)
Daniel Carr (Union) — LW — Signed with the Montreal Canadiens on April 24 — The second member of national champion Union to sign an NHL deal, Daniel Carr was the club’s best forward all season. He finished his senior year with 50 points in 39 games and earned second-team All-America honors. Carr played a 200-foot game and was involved of all facets of what Union accomplished this year. He’s been a good player since the second he step foot on campus, never finishing with fewer than 32 points and topped 20 goals three times. At 6-0, 195, he was physically strong which allowed him to get to all areas of the ice. He was tough to get the puck from and he made good decisions with the puck, which played into Union’s electric puck-possession style. His skating fit into Union’s up-tempo offense as well, as he has good quickness though probably needs to reach another gear to be a successful pro. The 22-year-old finished the season on a 12-game point streak in which he registered 20 points. Being 22 with four solid years of high-end development at a program on the rise puts Carr in a good position to succeed as a pro. It’s hard to see Carr being a big-time producer at the next level, but he could nab a bottom-six role and provide some offensive help. His age and collegiate success make him an easy gamble to take for the Habs.
(Updated April 15)
Mat Bodie (Union) — D — Reportedly agreed to terms with the New York Rangers on April 15 — The Rangers have been extremely aggressive in acquiring college free agents this spring and they may have scored their biggest UFA yet. Mat Bodie is fresh off of captaining Union to its first national championship, capping a rather brilliant collegiate career. In four years with the Dutchmen, Bodie posted 124 points in 154 games. As a senior, he had a career year with 39 points in 40 contests including 31 assists and was named a first-team All-American. That was ahead of more heralded drafted teammate Shayne Gostisbehere. Bodie is an excellent skater with terrific offensive sense. He was incredible in the national tournament this year with seven points in four games, including a goal in each game. That’s just incredible. Bodie has a very quick, accurate shot that gets to the net with some zip. Bodie can defend as well as you may have seen in the national championship game. He’s aggressive and reads plays extremely well at both ends and has excellent recovery speed. He distributes well and was a big part of Union’s ability to burn teams in transition and out-possess just about everybody. He’s a guy that can drive the play. The main concern about this point is likely his size as Bodie is 6-0, 165. He’s rail thin and it’s hard to see if he’ll put on much weight. That’s why there’s such a huge emphasis on his smarts. Bodie does all of the things he needs to to be successful and he also can thank the recent success of undersized Torey Krug with the Boston Bruins. as an undrafted free agent for making teams less apprehensive to go after smaller D with offensive pop. Bodie definitely has the goods to make it, so the Rangers are smart to take a chance on him now.
(Updated April 12)
Patrick Brown (Boston College) — C — Signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on April 12 — After BC fell to Union in the Frozen Four, the Eagles’ top undrafted player became available. Brown, a 21-year-old senior, served as the team’s captain this year and had his best offensive season by a mile. Brown posted 30 points including 15 goals in his fourth year with the Eagles. His previous career high was 11 points as a junior. Brown really came into his own this year. At 6-1, 197, he’s a physically strong player who battles well along the walls and uses his frame to get to the tough areas of the ice. He has decent speed as well. If Brown makes it to the NHL, it will likely be as a bottom-line energy player. Sometimes you should be wary of a player’s spike in production, but beyond a shooting percentage higher than you’d expect, it was pretty clear Brown’s year was legit. Like teammate Kevin Hayes, he put everything together after three years of honing his craft. He’s lauded for his character and work ethic, which is going to be music to any team’s ears. Getting a college UFA that will put in the work is a pretty big key to their success. Plus, the way Brown played this year, there may be more in his game to unlock, which gives him a chance at the next level. The Canes were smart to take a chance on him and support the team’s forward depth.
(Updated April 11)
Daniel O’Donoghue (Mercyhurst) — C — Signed with the Phoenix Coyotes on April 11 — After a while without a signing, the Coyotes made their second play on a college UFA this offseason. The team already has Hobey Baker finalist Greg Carey in the fold and they pull from another mid-major program to get O’Donoghue. The senior forward comes in at 6-5, 200, and has bumped up his production in each of his four seasons. The big centerman had 43 points in 38 games this year including 15 goals in helping the Lakers earn Atlantic Hockey’s regular-season title. I didn’t get a chance to see Mercyhurst at all this year, so I don’t have much insight on O’Donoghue other than getting a guy at his size with that type of production is a gamble worth making. The bigger guys always get a little bit of an edge, but 40-plus points in college hockey, in any conference, is a pretty big deal. The 23-year-old is expected to be assigned to Portland in the AHL.
(Updated April 5)
Ryan Faragher (St. Cloud State) — G — Signed with the Anaheim Ducks on April 5 — As things start to slow down on the college UFA market, the Anaheim Ducks were pretty busy Saturday. They locked up second-round draft pick Nic Kerdiles from Wisconsin and today signed a top NCAA goalie in Ryan Faragher. It’s a curious destination for Faragher, who will be way down on the deepest goaltending pospect pipeline in the NHL. The Ducks may be fortifying themselves in the event Jonas Hiller moves on and they lean more heavily on younger goalies. Faragher leaves one year of eligibility on the table after serving as St. Cloud’s primary starter for most of the last three years. The 23-year-old goaltender made 98 appearances over the last three seasons, which is a good amount of reps making that extra year of eligibility a little less necessary. Faragher saw his numbers dip substantially this season, however, posting a .905 save percentage and 2.79 goals-against average. The previous two seasons, Faragher had save percentages of .915 and .914 respectively. His last performance in a SCSU uniform was a clunker, but the night before that he made 39 saves, including several huge ones (like this) in overtime as the Huskies knocked off a talented Notre Dame squad in the NCAA tournament’s first round. Faragher certainly has ability and he also has good size at 6-2, 200. The Ducks don’t need him to be an NHL goalie for a long time and I’m not sure he will be, but the potential exists. He’s in a good spot where he has a few years to find his pro legs and if it works out, he’ll have earned it. Part of the reason the Ducks’ system is so deep is that the prospects continue developing while in the organization at a rapid rate. That’s attractive to any goalie.
(Updated April 1)
Garrett Thompson (Ferris State) — LW — Signed with the Ottawa Senators on April 1 — Now that the Folin sweepstakes are over, we should see more UFAs start finding new homes. Thompson is a really intriguing player out of Ferris State. He has good size at 6-2, 191 and doesn’t get pushed around. On top of that, he’s a gifted puck handler and has good one-on-one skills. Thompson skates well and has some quickness that can be deceptive at times. Thompson posted 87 points in 139 career games. He only had 32 points as a senior this year, which I thought was a bit low for a player of his ability, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. Thompson scored 16 goals this year, five better than his career best. He’s been a big part of a program that’s been on the rise over his four years there and certainly had his best season as a senior. He did score in the national championship game against Boston College two years ago, which was a career highlight. I haven’t seen Thompson much this year, but when I did see him I really liked what I saw. The skill level is improved and I think if he tacks on just a bit more muscle, he could develop into a bottom-of-the-lineup player with some scoring punch. At 24, I don’t know how much better he is going to get, and he’ll need some development time before he can step into the NHL lineup, but his puck skills definitely make him a player worth taking a chance on.
(Updated March 31)
Christian Folin (UMass-Lowell) — D — Signed with the Minnesota Wild on March 31 — Surprisingly enough, the Minnesota Wild pulled the biggest coup of college free agency this year. The club landed the top player on the market in 23-year-old Swedish defenseman Christian Folin. As many as 20 teams were believed to have been interested and the Wild reportedly beat out the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning as finalists for his services. Those two clubs have been top destinations for college UFAs, so this is a big, big get for Chuck Fletcher and the Wild. Folin’s signing also comes on the heels on the club losing out on top forward UFA Greg Carey and his younger brother Matt. This is far better than a consolation prize, obviously. Folin is big and strong at 6-3, 210. He probably could get a little meaner at his size, but I’ve seen him throw a few crushing checks, so he’s capable. His poise with the puck is really terrific as he moves it decisively and effectively. There is no panic in his game, which is a big part of why scouts believe he can be an NHLer right away. His shot is heavy and his mobility is top notch. He’s not speedy, but he’s fluid and efficient in his skating. He has the ability to step right into an NHL lineup, but he will need time to adjust. It’s important for fans to understand that just because every team wanted the guy, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be a star. A good college UFA is one that becomes an effective everyday player and there are plenty of examples of home runs and major misses. Folin has an opportunity to be a really good one down the line. His ability and Minnesota’s relative lack of blue line depth gives Folin a leg up on being an everyday player by next year. Folin is expected to meet the team in Chicago this week, meaning he likely gets into a game, burning a year off his entry level deal. If he sees NHL time with the Wild next year, he will be eligible to become an RFA after the 2014-15 season and should be able to be signed for an affordable deal. As far as college UFAs go, Folin is a big one. The Wild just made their organization better by picking him up and Folin found himself an opportunity to start his NHL career quickly.
Chris McCarthy (Vermont) — C — Signed with the New York Rangers on March 31 — The Rangers made their second solid signing of the college free agent season by locking up Vermont senior captain Chris McCarthy. The fifth-year senior had a fantastic campaign, posting 42 points in 38 games for the Catamounts, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament. McCarthy was a do-everything forward for Vermont and if you watched the team’s opening-round loss to Union, you’ll know just how important he was to the Catamounts’ lineup. He scored twice in the game, but played monster minutes on a team that lacked depth. McCarthy, who was awarded a redshirt after having his first junior season was derailed by injury made the most of his extra year of eligibility. Over his second junior season and this year, McCarthy posted 73 points in 74 games. At 6-1, 205, he has a good frame and uses it well. McCarthy tacked on a ton of muscle over his five years at Vermont and it helps him to be strong on the puck and tough to move out of the hard areas of the ice. He battles extremely well and has a powerful stride. He’s not the quickest guy on the ice, but he gets to where he needs to go and plays a very strong north-south game. McCarthy often drew tough line matchups as well as his two-way game is advanced. He could one day be a bottom-six forward with some scoring potential, but more than anything he adds organizational depth at this point. It’s a solid signing by the Rangers either way as McCarthy plays a style that should translate to the NHL if he’s ever needed.
Jordan Oesterle (Western Michigan) — D — Signed with the Edmonton Oilers on March 31 — The Oilers were in need of addressing their defense and found a pretty solid player in Oesterle. The junior defenseman has developed well under WMU’s defensive-minded head coach Andy Murray. Since the former NHL coach’s arrival, WMU has been a factory for defensemen. Oesterle added a little more offense to his game, but it’s his defending that has drawn interest. I remember hearing about him way back in the middle of the season when scouts noted he was developing into a really solid defender and was going to be a factor on the college UFA market. If Oesterle can get just a little stronger, he should be able to round out into an NHL-caliber defenseman. Having played on a team where they rely on defense, Oesterle had a big role with the Broncos, often playing top-pairing minutes. I think he’s going to need a fair amount of time in the AHL to continue to get stronger and adjust to the pro game, but he’s a smart hockey player with potential. He’s headed to Oklahoma city right away, so the Oilers won’t be burning a year off of his two-year ELC. It’s a relatively low-risk signing for a defenseman that has been trending up developmentally. The signing of Oesterle makes me wonder if the Oilers are going to be out of the mix for top free agent Christian Folin. They were reportedly among the many teams interested, but adding a D just as Folin comes to market is interesting.
(Updated March 29)
Bryce van Brabant (Quinnipiac) — LW — Signed with the Calgary Flames on March 29 — Quinnipiac’s early exit from the national tournament Friday was Calgary’s gain as they get a Brian Burke-type player in college free agency. Van Brabant is a 6-3, 205-pound winger who showed added scoring touch this season. I didn’t have him listed on the players to watch since I wasn’t convinced he was ready to come out. The upside is definitely there, though. Having an extra year of eligibility, he had the leverage to get a deal in which he could burn a year off his entry-level contract by playing an NHL game. It sounds like that’s what will happen per Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register. That would make van Brabant the first player in program history to play in the NHL, which is quite surprising. He had 15 goals this season, 10 of which came on the power play and might be a bit of a project going forward. He could develop into a bottom-of-the-lineup power forward with some scoring pop. Van Brabant also put up 113 PIM as a junior this year, which is extremely high for college hockey. So there’s your truculence, I suppose. The Flames had him in their rookie camp last year and I think it’s wise for them to get him under contract before he would have a chance to draw more suitors next year. One more year of development in college and I think the line to sign him would have been a lot longer, but he’s certainly an intriguing prospect right now.
(Updated March 26)
Kevin Goumas (UNH) — C — Signed by the Philadelphia Flyers organization on March 26 — I don’t usually include guys that sign AHL-only deals on this list, but I felt Goumas warranted further analysis as I think he could one day work his way into the NHL eventually. The four-year star at UNH has really come into his own over the last two seasons after steadily improving with each passing year. This year, as a senior, Goumas posted 52 points, which put him fifth in the country and was his career high. Last year, the Long Beach, N.Y., native had a strong junior campaign, had pro offers out there, but opted to go back to UNH and I think he was rewarded for it, even though the Wildcats missed out on the national tournament. Goumas finished his college career with 146 points in 146 games. He will join the Adirondack Phantoms for the remainder of the season on an amateur tryout agreement and signed an AHL-only deal for next year, but he has the potential to move up the ranks in an organization light on productive prospects. Goumas is small at 5-10, 160, but the reason I believe he could develop into an NHL player down the road is his smarts. A lot of his success in college the last two years was by using his skill and hockey sense to make the right play instead of the first play. He has shown good puck skills and has steadily improved his skating. Goumas also has some touch around the net. If he performs well on his AHL deal, he will still be young enough to fall under the entry-level system if Philly wants to sign him as he is 22 right now. This also means the Flyers aren’t using one of the 50 contracts they’re limited to and could push for more college UFAs. The Flyers are going low-risk with Goumas on this deal, even lower than spending a AHL contract, meaning this is a fantastic get for them. Here’s a nifty wraparound goal against Providence from this season:
(Updated March 25)
Matt Bailey (Alaska-Anchorage) — C — Signed by the Anaheim Ducks on March 25 — The Ducks made a rather sneaky, but smart pick up with Bailey. He has a good frame and is coming off a career season. The ultra-competitive Bailey was a point-per-game player for Anchorage this year with 20 goals and 38 points in 38 games played. He had two points in the Seawolves’ decisive Game 3 win over rival Alaska Fairbanks to advance to the WCHA semifinals, where the team took regular-season champion Ferris State to the brink. I hadn’t seen UAA this year until the WCHA semis and I thought Bailey looked like a guy who could do just about anything for them. His skating is clearly an asset. Where he fits as a pro prospect for Anaheim is less clear, though I do not expect him to be a high-end producer at the next level. He had a huge spike in production as a senior this year, but his two-way play is what gained him notoriety in college hockey. The other thing I like about Bailey is that he is a true senior, meaning he followed the college path right out of high school as opposed to spending a few extra years in junior. At 22, he still has plenty he can learn, but having had four years of college already, he’s ahead of some of the other college UFAs signing. One other thing to note about Bailey, at age 16, he made Canada West’s roster for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, meaning he was at that time one of the best prospects in his region. He may have taken a little longer to get noticed, but he’s certainly a prospect that will give the Ducks pipeline depth.
(Updated March 24)
Trevor van Riemsdyk (UNH) — D — Signed by the Chicago Blackhawks on March 24 — Coming into the year, I believed Trevor van Riemsdyk, the younger brother of U.S. Olympian and Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, would be one of the top free agents. However, when TvR went down with a fractured ankle in January, which effectively ended his junior season. I wondered how much it would impact the market for him and if teams would hold off. Chicago didn’t and could be rewarded for their aggressiveness. Had van Riemsdyk not been injured, I’m guessing there would have been a long line to sign him. He was in the process of compiling a career year at UNH after being named a first-team All-American last season as a sophomore, averaging 0.88 points per game from the blue line with four goals and 19 assists in 26 games. At 6-2, 185, he has a little bit of bulking up to do, but his mobility and keen offensive instincts give him some noticeable upside. What makes van Riemsdyk even more intriguing is his development trajectory. Coming out of the EJHL, he was a little raw and it showed at times his freshman season. As a sophomore, he was one of college hockey’s best defensemen and was again the first half of this season. He’ll need time in the AHL to get his pro legs under him, but there very well could be a solid NHL defenseman in the near future in van Riemsdyk. This is Chicago’s second UFA signing and it loads up an area that doesn’t have a lot of depth in what is generally a solid pipeline. Van Riemsdyk was due back from his injury soon, but UNH’s season ended in the Hockey East tournament. He may have some time to see AHL action this year.
Ryan Carpenter (Bowling Green State) — C — Signed by the San Jose Sharks on March 24 — It was a bit of a hard-luck season for Bowling Green junior Ryan Carpenter. After missing the first half of the season with a broken finger and then a broken foot suffered in practice, he only appeared in 15 games. Over that 15 games, however, Carpenter posted 16 points including eight goals. He also was BGSU’s captain as a sophomore and had 79 points in 100 career games for the Falcons. The Sharks have been extra aggressive in recent years on the college free agent market, nabbing Eriah Hayes last year and Matt Tennyson the year before. Both have already seen NHL time. The Florida native checks in at 6-1, 180 pounds and the fact he was averaging better than a point-per-game after missing part of the season is a pretty good indication he hasn’t missed a beat. Getting some AHL time to continue making up for lost time and continuing to get stronger will be a benefit for Carpenter, who also had a good pair of seasons in the USHL with Sioux City.
(Updated March 20)
Matt Carey (St. Lawrence) — C — Signed by the Chicago Blackhawks on March 20 — Though not as heralded as two-time Hobey Baker finalist and new Phoenix Coyotes prospect Greg Carey, Matt had a pretty solid freshman campaign. After sitting out last season due to being academically ineligible, the 22-year-old was a highly-productive forward for the Saints this season. He finished second to Greg with 37 points in 38 games, including 18 goals, same as Greg, a pretty solid total for a freshman, even if an old one. It is believed he will join the Blackhawks immediately, which is somewhat surprising, though the Hawks have a need for cheap help. I spoke to some scouts that were luke warm on Matt Carey, but there’s certainly potential. The consensus seems to be that he could have done well with more time in college, but there was definitely a market for Matt that wasn’t tied to Greg. Since he was available, several teams felt he was worth taking a shot on him earlier. According to Carey, via Matt Radley, and the Minnesota Wild were reportedly very interested as well. The question becomes how much can be squeezed out of him at the pro level. Expect him to spend a lot of time in the AHL next season, as there’s plenty of development left ahead for the younger of Hamilton, Ontario’s Carey brothers. The Blackhawks have been more active of late on the college UFA market, nabbing last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc.
Cody Kunyk (Alaska) — C — Signed by the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 20 — The Lightning have done very well with undrafted free agents over the years. From Cory Conacher (who eventually turned into Ben Bishop via trade) to J.T. Brown and last year Andrej Sustr. They also have Tyler Johnson, who was signed as an undrafted UFA out of the WHL. Steve Yzerman sure knows how to pick them. So that’s a feather in Kunyk’s cap. I didn’t get a chance to see Alaska this year, but the Nanooks were quite competitive in the new WCHA and were led by Kunyk, who was named the conference’s player of the year. The 23-year-old senior had a career year with 22 goals and 43 points, which is a great season in college hockey. He’s average sized at 5-11, 195 and put up a lot of points in junior as well. He signed a one-year deal and the Lightning are bringing him right into the NHL. If he plays, he’ll be eligible for a new contract as an RFA by next season. Sweet deal there. I don’t think it would be fair to Kunyk to expect him to be like the previous UFA signings in terms of what he is as a prospect, but he’s absolutely worth a shot in this low-risk scenario. Here’s a rather spectacular assist from earlier this season.
(Updated March 19)
Greg Carey (St. Lawrence) — LW — Signed by the Phoenix Coyotes on March 19 — One of the most productive players over the last four years in all of college hockey, Carey played in relative anonymity until last season when he and teammate Kyle Flanagan (who signed with Philadelphia as a UFA last year) lit the ECAC on fire as one of the best one-two punches in the country. Carey opted to stay in school for his senior season and the opportunity to play a year with younger brother Matt. Greg finished the season currently in second in the nation with 57 points, with a nation-leading 39 assists, making him a virtual lock to be a Hobey Baker finalist. He led the country in goals last season with 28. A great offensive player who could probably step into the Phoenix lineup right now if they want him to has tremendous instincts on the ice and utilized his four years of college hockey to perfect his craft. The 5-11, 195-pound forward isn’t going to overwhelm anyone physically, but he has some shiftiness and has a tremendous release. Over his collegiate career with the Saints, Carey racked up 185 points in 152 games for an average of 1.22 points-per-game. That’s a remarkable number. The extra year helped Carey show he’s ready to play now and he just may get the chance. Here’s a look at his Hobey Baker campaign highlight reel from last season. Some real dandies in here.
Pheonix Copley (Michigan Tech) — G — Signed by the Washington Capitals on March 19 — A slight surprise signing, Copley parlayed two decent seasons into a deal with the Caps, which has a rather light goaltending pipeline at the present. Though Copley’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, he’s 6-3, 175, possessing the size teams covet in goaltenders these days. Also, he’s had some flashes of real brilliance, most notably at the Great Lakes invitational last season when he backstopped the Huskies to the title with back-to-back shutouts, blanking Michigan with 38 saves and Western Michigan with 32. It was Tech’s first GLI win in 32 years, so kind of a big deal. This year, his numbers took a step forward as he made 30 appearances, posting a .911 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average. Copley is going to need a lot of reps over the next few years, but he certainly has upside. The Capitals are filling a glaring need with an advanced 22-year-old prospect, but it’s tough to know if there’s an NHL player in Copley, who hails from North Pole, Alaska. Either way, this is a low-risk addition on a player that has plenty of development ahead, which should allow Caps goalie coach Olaf Kolzig a great project to mold.
(Updated March 17)
Colin Campbell (Lake Superior State) — RW — Signed by the Detroit Red Wings on March 17 — Lake Superior State has its second pro signing in just over a week as senior forward Colin Campbell signed with the Red Wings. The solidly built, 6-1, 203-pound winger is tough on the puck and strong in all areas of the ice. He was the second leading scorer for the Lakers with 14 goals and 29 points after missing most of last season with injury. He’s not going to wow you, but he could develop into a bottom-of-the-lineup grinder with some ability to produce. At 22, he spent four solid years developing under Jim Roque, who was recently fired. Though gone, Roque has a tremendous record of finding some diamonds in the rough and developing them into NHL-level prospects. The fact that Campbell is still at an age where he’s going to develop some more in pro hockey, he still has a projectable skill set to reach the big leagues. Now it’s up to the Red Wings developmental folks to take care of the rough edges.
Mike Zalewski (RPI) — C — Signed by the Vancouver Canucks on March 14 — After just two years at RPI, Mike Zalewski did enough to impress the Vancouver Canucks, a team that is always on the prowl for college free agents and late bloomers. Zalewski is a big centerman at 6-2, 210 and played a big role in his second season with the Engineers. He finished fourth on the team with 26 points, but was a highly-productive player in junior. The New Hartford, N.Y. native might be a bit of a project, but at 21 years old, he’s got a lot of time to develop. RPI probably doesn’t love losing such a valuable player with two years of eligibility on the table, but Zalewski gets a good deal out of going to a Vancouver organization that is still trying to replenish its prospect pipeline with older players who could help sooner than later. He’ll be an interesting one to watch going forward.
Ryan Haggerty (RPI) — RW — Signed by the New York Rangers on March 12 — After a somewhat surprising early end to the season for the Engineers, Haggerty instantly became one of the most college free agents on the market. Though there are still several weeks in the season, Haggerty currently sits third in the nation with 28 goals. He also led the nation with 161 shots on net. So yes, Haggerty was an absolute force this year. Undrafted out of the National Team Development Program, he still had a lot of his game left to mature into. Over three years at RPI, he blossomed into a high-end scorer thanks to increased offensive sense and physical strength as well as added power in his skating. Haggerty doesn’t possess high end skill, but his instincts offensively have grown immensely over the last three years which makes him a very intriguing prospect for the Rangers. According to assistant GM Jeff Gorton (via Jim Cerny), Haggerty will join the Rangers immediately, making this Stamford, Conn., native’s dream come true. He grew up a fan of the club.
Here’s a look at Haggerty’s release on this goal scored early this season at Cornell:
Kevin Czuczman (Lake Superior State) — D — Signed with the New York Islanders on March 11 — Lake Superior State continues to find these undrafted diamonds in the rough and turn them into NHL prospects. The same thing happened with Kellan Lain last year, who already made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks earlier this season. Czuczczman is a big, 6-3, 204-pound defender who had a career year as a junior at LSSU. He posted 10 goals and 21 points and ended the season with 73 PIM. He was an all-situation player for the Lakers and obviously has that pro-ready frame. Described as a big defender with mobility and a mature game, Czuczman heads into an organization that is incredibly deep with defensive talent. It sounds like LSSU alum and Isles assistant coach Doug Weight had a big hand in recruiting Czuczman to the organization. The big defender is one of those guys that isn’t a big name, but one that could end up being a great value pickup for the Islanders as it sounded like Czuczman was getting a fair amount of interest from other clubs as well.
List of College UFAs to Watch (Updated 4/24/14)
This list of college free agents is by no means comprehensive, but should give you an idea of some of the guys that either will be available as graduating seniors or could come out of school early. Players listed earlier are among those believed to be among those that should garner strongest interest. All players’ seasons still in progress unless otherwise noted. Players will be removed from this list as they are signed.
Mark Zengerle — C — Sr. — Wisconsin^
Alexander Krushelnyski — LW — Colorado College^
Clay Witt — G — Jr. (RS) — Northeastern^
Kenney Morrison — D — So. — Western Michigan^
David Makowski — D — Sr. — Denver^
Shayne Taker — D — Sr. — Notre Dame^ (signed AHL deal with San Antonio)
Oleg Yevenko — D — Jr. — UMass^
Connor Jones — F — Sr. — Quinnipiac^ (signed AHL deal with OKC)
Sam Warning — LW — Jr. — Minnesota^
Austin Czarnik — C — Jr. — Miami^
Ahti Oksanen — D — So. — Boston University^
Scott Czarnowczan — D — Sr. — Ferris State^ (Signed ECHL deal)
Andrew Calof — C — Sr. — Princeton^ (Signed AHL deal with Utica)
Steven Summerhays — G — Sr. — Notre Dame^ (Signed ECHL deal)
Matthew Zay — W — Jr. — Mercyhurst^
Joel Rumpel — G — Jr. — Wisconsin^
C.J. Motte — G — Jr. — Ferris State^
^ — Season is complete
Strikethrough — Player has declared intention to return to school
Keep track of all college pro signings, not just the NHL UFAs, with College Hockey Inc.’s frequently updated list here.