It’s that time of year. The NCAA hockey regular season is coming to a close and conference tournaments are about to begin. 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 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.
All our 2018-19 Top Shelf Prospects articles are available here.
A-H are available here.
2019 College Hockey Free Agents – Part 2
Mason Jobst, Centre, Ohio State, 5’8″ 185 lbs, Senior
Already 25 years old, Jobst is one of the older prospects on our list. The captain of the Buckeyes is an undersized centre who has put up 17 goals and 36 points in 34 games this season. Despite his size, he plays a gritty game. Jobst gets involved in battles on the boards and in front of the net. He is a strong skater with good speed and acceleration and uses that to be dangerous off the rush and to get in quickly on the forecheck. His shot is decent and he has a quick release, but he scores most of his goals in tight. He has the soft hands to get tip-ins, pick up rebounds, or make quick moves on a goalie.
Nicholas Jones, Right Wing, University of North Dakota, 5’11” 176 lbs, Senior (redshirt)
Signed an AHL deal with Hartford (AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers).
The Edmonton native has scored five goals and 15 points in 22 games as a redshirt senior for the Fighting Hawks. He played his first two seasons with Ohio State, before sitting out a year and transferring to North Dakota. Because he only played three games as a sophomore and took a redshirt year, Jones is eligible to return to UND next year. He plays a gritty style, using his good speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and create turnovers. Once those happen, he can take the puck to the front of the net or quickly get the puck to a teammate. He goes to the net and is involved in most of the post-whistle scrums. Jones also shows offensive skill with good stickhandling ability, and his quick, agile skating ability.
Brady Keeper, Right Defence, University of Maine, 6’2″ 194 lbs, Sophomore
Signed with the Florida Panthers.
Keeper has put up five goals and 18 points in 33 games this season. Just a sophomore, he could stay in school if the offers are not good enough to knock his socks off. He has really improved his discipline this year, taking half as many penalty minutes as he did as a freshman. However, Keeper is still very physical in the defensive end of the ice and can still be even more disciplined as he does have 40 penalty minutes. He has also worked on his positioning. Keeper uses his big body to cut down passing lanes and block shots. He is a two-way defender with the stickhandling and speed to lead and join the rush, and get back defensively. Keeper has a good wrist shot and quick release, as well as powerful slapshot.
Jake Kielly, Goaltender, Clarkson, 6’2” 201 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kielly is having his second straight outstanding season between the pipes. In 34 games for Clarkson he has a 1.92 goals-against-average and .928 save percentage. Kielly attended the Buffalo Sabres development camp last summer but opted to return to school in the fall. He has decent size and takes good advantage by getting well out in his crease to challenge shooters and cut down angles. Kielly has quick legs and gets into and out of his butterfly quickly. He also has a very good glove hand. Kielly is a strong skater and gets around the crease well, with excellent side-to-side movement.
Ryan Kuffner, Left Wing, Princeton, 6’1″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed by the Detroit Red Wings.
Kuffner is having a yet another strong season with 20 goals and 40 points in 29 games for Princeton. The Ottawa native has gotten better through each year of college hockey. Kuffner works well down low, winning battles in the corners and in front of the net. He creates offence in the cycle game, by protecting the puck well, and waiting patiently for an offensive opportunity. He can make plays from further out as well. Kuffner has great vision and passing skills. He can make tape-to-tape passes from anywhere on the ice. Kuffner also has a great wrist shot and release. He has also shown the ability to play in his own end of the ice.
Cam Lee, Left Defence, Western Michigan, 6’0” 190 lbs, Junior
Lee has scored seven goals and 23 points in 32 games this season. He is the nephew of former Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere. He has always been strong offensively, with a strong shot from the point. Lee understands how to keep his shot low and get it on the net, allowing teammates to get tips and rebounds. He also uses good lateral agility to walk the line and create shooting and passing lanes. Lee has strong vision and passing skills. He can quarterback the power play as well as start the transition game. Lee’s strong skating helps him to get up the ice as well as get back defensively.
Alex Limoges, Left Wing, Penn State, 6’1” 201 lbs, Sophomore
After a solid freshman season, Limoges has exploded as a sophomore already doubling his goal total, and nearly doubling his points despite playing three fewer games so far. He has put up 17 goals and 41 points in 34 games this season. Limoges is used in all situations for the Nittany Lions, playing on the top line and also matching up against other team’s top lines. He is an effective two-way player, playing a smart positional game and almost always seems to be in the right spot. His strong skating and low centre of gravity make him strong on the puck and help him to cycle down low as well as battle for pucks on the boards and in front of the net. Limoges has a strong wrist shot and a quick release.
Parker Mackay, Right Wing, Minnesota-Duluth, 5’11” 190 lbs, Senior
Mackay was a key piece of the Minnesota-Duluth team that won the National Championship last season. The 24-year-old took over as captain of the team this season and has put up 12 goals and 23 points in 30 games as the Bulldogs look to defend their title. Mackay brings grit and energy at both ends of the ice. He is always willing to get his nose dirty in battles for the puck, in being quick on the forecheck and at getting to the front of the net. He also provides back pressure in his own end, cuts down passing lanes and is an effective penalty killer. The offensive game might prevent Mackay from becoming a top-six forward, but smart play and a never quit attitude could see him find a niche as a depth player.
Dylan Malmquist, Left Wing, Notre Dame, 5’11” 185 lbs, Senior
Malmquist was part of the Fighting Irish team that lost the National Championship game to Minnesota-Duluth last year. An alternate captain this season, he has put up 10 goals and 30 points in 34 games. Malmquist is another player who works hard at both ends of the ice and can be used on both the power play and the penalty kill. He is a quick skater and a good stickhandler. Malmquist can create chances in transition, using his skating and good vision and passing skills to assume the role of playmaker. His shot has a quick release but could stand to have more power.
Alec McCrea, Right Defence, Cornell, 6’3″ 212 lbs, Senior
McCrea has three goals and seven points in 29 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.
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