It’s that time of year. The NCAA hockey season has come to a close and conference tournaments are in full swing. NHL teams are now salivating at the chance to sign the top undrafted college free agents as their teams play their final games of the season.
These prospects don’t always have an impact at the NHL level, but the chances of finding a diamond in the rough ala players like Matt Read, Danny DeKeyser, Chris Kunitz, Andy McDonald, Dustin Penner, Tyler Bozak, Jason Garrison, Mike Condon, Ben Scrivens, Torey Krug, Christian Folin, Frank Vatrano, Daniel Carr and others who have been uncovered in recent years is always a chance that NHL teams seem willing to take. At worst they give out an Entry Level contract, pay a player to play for their minor league club for a couple years, and then let them go. At best they get a player who can contribute at the NHL level, for a relatively low cap hit, without using a draft pick, or trading other assets. These players are low risk/big reward and so the competition to sign them will be fierce.
With that said, who are the top Free Agents available? I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by their last name for ease of reference. We will go through 40 names in four parts.
2018 College Hockey Free Agents, Part Three
Rob Michel, Right Defence, University of Maine, 6’2″ 185 lbs, Junior
Michel has five goals and 17 points in 31 games this season. He is a very good skater. Michel has good speed and acceleration in both directions. His smooth pivots and good agility allow him to quickly transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. Michel is a strong two-way player with a good slap shot and wrist shot. He makes a strong first pass out of the zone but is not really a powerplay quarterback. Instead, he works best as the trigger man on the point.
Alec McCrea, Right Defence, Cornell, 6’3″ 212 lbs, Junior
McCrea has four goals and 10 points in 28 games this season. However, he is best known for his work in the defensive zone. A big defenceman with a long stick, he positions himself well and cuts down passing and shooting lanes. He is a very good skater, and his excellent agility and quick feet help him to keep attackers in front of him, and force them to the outside. He is not afraid to use his size to battle in front of the net and in the corners. McCrea is will throw a big hit when one presents itself, but he does not get himself out of position chasing them. He is a smart player, who will pinch occasionally.
Cale Morris, Goaltender, Notre Dame, 6’1″ 190 lbs, Sophomore
The 21-year-old goaltender took over as the Fighting Irish starter after playing just one game as a freshman. He has been brilliant, leading the highly ranked Irish with a 1.92 goals against average and .945 save percentage. Morris has quick legs that take away the bottom of the net. He tracks the puck extremely well and gets side-to-side quickly. While he is not the biggest goalie, he takes advantage of his frame by getting out quickly to cut down angles. His glove and blocker are also strong. Morris, like many young goalies, will need to continue to work on his rebound control.
Tyler Mueller, Left Defence, UMass-Lowell, 6’1″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed an ATO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders AHL affiliate)
Mueller has four goals and 17 points in 36 games this season. He is solid on his skates, with good balance and power. This allows him to clear the front of the net, and to win battles along the boards. His skating skill, and good gap control make him hard to beat off the rush, and he keeps attacking forwards away from the slot. His quick stick also knocks pucks away. Mueller transitions well, with the stickhandling ability to skate the puck out of his own end, and the passing skill to start the transition game.
Brinson Pasichnuk, Left Defence, Arizona State University, 6’0″ 185 lbs, Sophomore
Pasichnuk has been a key offensive contributor on a poor Arizona State team. In 34 games, he has eight goals and 26 points to lead the team in scoring. He has an absolute bomb of a slap shot, which he unleashes from the right point on the power play. He also has good vision and playmaking skills and can quarterback the play from the point. His tape-to-tape passes to set up teammates with scoring chances. He is a quick skater with good stickhandling skills who can lead the rush, or start the transition with a strong first pass. Pasichnuk must work on his defensive game. He can get caught out of position at times and has a habit of being over aggressive in chasing the puck.
David Pope, Left Wing, Nebraska-Omaha, 6’2″ 187 lbs, Senior
A fourth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2013, Pope can become a free agent on August 15th if he does not sign with Detroit. He has put up 20 goals and 40 points in 33 games this season. Pope has an excellent wrist shot, and a very good one-timer. He is a smart player who has learned to find soft spots in the defence and set up for a shot. Pope has developed his playmaking ability, but is still very much a shoot first player. While his skating improved over his college career, it remains his biggest impediment to making it in the NHL.
Derek Pratt, Left Defence, Connecticut Huskies, 6’2″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed with the South Carolina Stingrays (Washington Capitals ECHL affiliate)
While there are no offensive numbers to speak of, he has one goal and 10 points in 34 games, Pratt is extremely good defensively. He is a shutdown defender, with the skating ability to keep up with the best forwards, the hockey IQ to read the play and the anticipation to cut off passes. Pratt is also willing to put his body on the line and block shots. He also makes a good first pass out of the zone. While he plays a physical game, the 23-year-old defenceman needs to add some upper body strength to do so at the next level.
Brogan Rafferty, Right Defence, Quinnipiac University, 6’2″ 192 lbs, Sophomore
The 22-year-old defenseman put up four goals and 17 points in 36 games this season. He attended development camp with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Rafferty is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice. He is a strong stick handler and has the agility and shiftiness to skate the puck out of danger. Rafferty also has good passing skills and can start the rush, or set up plays from the blue line. His agility allows him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. His defensive game is getting better, as he improves his positioning and learns how to use his size to battle for loose pucks in the corners and in front of the net.
Alec Rauhauser, Left Defence, Bowling Green, 6’3″ 216 lbs, Sophomore
Rauhauser has had a monster season with Bowling Green, putting up nine goals and 37 points in 38 games. Rauhauser is a great stick handler, he controls the puck on a string and even made a name for himself by scoring a lacrosse-style goal on his backhand in high school. He runs the point on the power play with a great slap shot and excellent wrist shot. Rauhauser has great vision and passing ability, setting up teammates for scoring chances. He understands to keep his shots low to allow teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds. Rauhauser is a strong skater who can lead the rush. Just a sophomore, he could choose to go back to school to continue to work on his defensive game.
Sheldon Rempal, Left Wing/Right Wing, Clarkson University, 5’10” 154 lbs, Sophomore
The undersized winger has put up huge numbers for Clarkson with 21 goals and 39 points in 33 games this season. He has attended development camps with the Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals, and Calgary Flames. Despite his size, Rempal is not afraid to go to the front of the net and scores his fair share goals on rebounds, tip-ins, and cleaning up the other garbage in front of the net. He is a great skater, with excellent speed and acceleration, as well as agility. Rempal can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has a good wrist shot and quick release.
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