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 2018 college hockey 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 Four
Jimmy Schuldt, Left Defence, St. Cloud State, 6’1″ 205 lbs, Junior
The captain of the Huskies, Schuldt attended the Montreal Canadiens development camp last season. Schuldt has eight goals and 36 points in 34 games this season. The 22-year-old defenceman plays a strong defensive game. Opposing forwards have to be careful not to come up Schuldt’s side with their heads down, as he is more than willing to take them out with a big hit. He clears the front of the net and shows strong containment in the cycle game as well. As is clear from his numbers Schuldt can provide some offence as well. He makes a strong first pass out of the zone and has the vision and playmaking skill to quarterback the powerplay. He also has a big slap shot from the point.
Corey Schueneman, Left Defence, Western Michigan, 6’0″ 201 lbs, Junior
Schueneman has put up five goals and 26 points in 32 games for the Broncos this year. Schueneman is a smart defender. He uses good vision and playmaking skill to quarterback the Broncos powerplay. While he has a powerful shot, he knows that getting it through shooting lanes, and keeping it low for teammates to get deflections and rebounds enhance his team’s offence. Schueneman has very good agility and can walk the line to open up passing and shooting lanes. He plays a solid defensive game, keeping good gap control and keeping attackers to the outside on the rush.
Kiefer Sherwood, Right Wing, Miami of Ohio, 6’0″ 185 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Anaheim Ducks.
With just eight goals and 25 points in 33 games this year, the junior forward saw his numbers drop from his sophomore season. With another year of eligibility remaining, he may decide to stay in school to try and bring those numbers back up in 2018-19. Sherwood has excellent speed, and his acceleration is deadly. If he can get a step on a defender to the outside, he can drop his shoulder to protect the puck and is gone. Sherwood also has an excellent wrist shot and quick release. He can use that shot off the rush or working the half-wall on the powerplay. While the numbers are not great, the skills are there, so he might still get some interest.
Tyler Sheehy, Centre, University of Minnesota, 5’10” 185 lbs, Junior
Sheehy was highly sought after as a sophomore after he put up 53 points in 38 games. He has not looked like the same player this season, as he had off-season back surgery. Sheehy has just 12 goals and 25 points in 36 games. He’s been better as the season has gone on though, including a five-point weekend against Wisconsin in February. The flashes of the old Sheehy are starting to show, and this could have teams interested.
Sheehy is an extremely smart player. He sees the ice extremely well and can thread the needle to make high-end passes to set up teammates. He may be only 5’10” tall, but he is built very solidly with a low centre of gravity. This makes him hard to knock off the puck as well as allowing Sheehy to excel down low on the cycle. He also has decent hands in and around the net. After a whistle, you will often find Sheehy in the middle of any scrums that might break out.
Dylan Sikura, Centre, Northeastern University, 5’11” 174 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Chicago Blackhawks
A sixth-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014, Sikura could become a free agent in the summer, if he is not signed. He is one of the top scorers in all of college hockey with 17 goals and 48 points in 31 games this year. Sikura is a good skater. He has a quick first step along with good acceleration and speed.
Sikura has excellent vision and passing skills. He thinks the game very well, anticipating where teammates and opponents are going to be. He is able to thread the needle on passes making plays to set up up scoring chances. Sikura gets to open ice after giving up the puck. He is deadly on the give-and-go play, with an excellent wrist shot and one-timer. His release is quick and deceptive. Sikura also has very good stickhandling skill.
Andrew Sturtz, Right Wing, Penn State, 5’8″ 185 lbs, Junior
The 23-year-old Nittany Lions winger has put up 14 goals and 40 points in 36 games season. Despite being undersized, Sturtz is hard-hitting an gritty. He gets to the front of the net, throws hits on the forecheck, and battles hard in front of the net. Sturtz has soft hands and can score on rebounds, tip-ins, and quick one-time shots in front of the net. He creates havoc and is always in the middle of scrums. Discipline can be an issue, as he has to be careful not to cross the line. He also has a good wrist shot and release.
C.J. Suess, Left Wing, Minnesota State (Mankato), 5’11” 190 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Winnipeg Jets.
A 2014 fifth round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, the Minnesota State-Mankato captain can become a free agent if not signed by August 15th. He has 22 goals and 43 points in 36 games this season. Suess is a strong skater, who plays a responsible game in all three zones. He has a good wrist shot, snap shot, and pairs it with a quick release. Suess protects the puck well in the cycle, and has the vision and passing skills to make plays around the net. He is also good in his own end of the ice.
Josh Teves, Left Defence, Princeton University, 6’0″ 170 lbs, Junior
Teves has put up six goals and 28 points in 26 games this season. Teves is a slick skater, with good speed in both directions, and excellent pivots and crossovers. This allows him to cover a lot of ice, and to play an effective two-way game. He can skate the puck out of danger in his end, as well as lead the rush on the attack. Teves also has very good playmaking skills, which he can use in transition, or in playing the point on the powerplay. He is strong positionally and has a quick stick, but must improve his size and strength to succeed in the professional game.
Max Veronneau, Right Wing, Princeton University, 6’0″ 181 lbs, Junior
Veronneau is having a monster season with 15 goals and 50 points in 31 games. Veronneau is an excellent playmaker. He uses his strong skating and stickhandling ability to open up passing lanes, both off the rush or in the cycle game. He is able to shake off defenders either by quickly speeding up or slowing down or through a series of quick cuts. Veronneau is a smart player. He anticipates the movements of his teammates and defenders to create offence. He also has a good release on his shot but could stand to improve the power going forward.
Sebastian Vidmar, Left Wing, Union College, 6’3″ 203 lbs, Junior
Vidmar has 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 34 games this year. It is a little lower than the 41 points he put up as a sophomore but has lost a lot of offensive support on the Union team. Vidmar is a playmaker off the wing. He is very poised with the puck and has good stickhandling ability. He sees the ice well and seems to have the ability to slow things down and make passes to his teammates. His skating was never his strong suit, but Vidmar has really improved this season, to the point where it is now above average. He works well with the give and go, finding open ice to take the puck back from a teammate and fire a one-timer into the back of the net.
Zach Whitecloud, Right Defence, Bemidji State, 6’2″ 209 lbs, Sophomore
Signed with the Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights have signed college free agent defenseman Zach Whitecloud of Bemidji State. He will join the NHL team in Buffalo Friday and wear No. 2.
— Steve Carp (@stevecarprj) March 8, 2018
Whitecloud has four goals and 19 points in 36 games this season. Last summer he attended the Los Angeles Kings development camp. Whitecloud is a good skater who plays a strong two-way game. He uses his size to play a physical game, throwing hits, battling for pucks in the corner, and clearing the front of the net. Whitecloud has the stickhandling to skate the puck out of his own end. He keeps his head up and starts the transition game with a good first pass. His slap shot is decent, but could use a bit more power.
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