Its that time of year. The NCAA hockey 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, Matt Gilroy, Cory Conacher, Jason Garrison, Ben Scrivens, Torey Krug, Christian Folin, 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 last name for ease of reference. I’ll be doing 33 names in three parts.
Top 2016 College Hockey Free Agents Part 2
Shane Hanna, Defence, Michigan Tech Huskies, Junior (5’11 194 lbs)
A 21-year-old defenceman out of British Columbia, Shane Hanna has been an important part of generating the Huskies transition game for the last two years. He is a good skater and stickhandler who can avoid forecheckers and get the puck out of danger in his own end. He also makes a very good first pass. Hanna is not afraid to join the rush, and has the speed to get back defensively when he does. Hanna can quarterback the powerplay with those passing skills, and the fact that he has a good slapshot and one timer. His agility allows him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. Defensively he is tough to beat on the rush, but his size can be an issue in defending big forwards on the cycle. Hanna has attended NHL prospect camps the last two summers.
Mark Jankowski, Centre, Providence Friars, Senior (6’3″ 185 lbs)
Drafted 21st overall in the 2012 Draft by the Calgary Flames, Jankowski could go the way of Blake Wheeler, Mike Reilly, Justin Schultz and others, and decide to become a free agent this summer. Jankowski is a tall and lanky centre, who has a long, smooth skating stride. He has very good top speed and reaches it quickly with good acceleration. Jankowski has the power to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He has a long reach, but soft hands that allow him to be a talented stickhandler and to protect the puck well in the cycle. He has shown good vision and makes tape to tape passes to teammates when they get open. His shot has improved since he was drafted, and he has a good release. He’s broken out as a senior with 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points in 34 games for Providence, career highs in all categories. He could stand to add a little more bulk on his frame as well.
Kasimir Kaskisuo, Goaltender, Minnesota-Duluth Buldogs, Sophomore (6’2″ 185 lbs)
The 23-year-old Finnish born goaltender has been a starter for both years at Minnesota-Duluth. He has a 1.94 goals against average and .924 save percentage. While he could stay in school for up to two more years, he could get some interest given his decent size, and strong butterfly technique. He has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net. Kaskisuo makes the most of his size by playing at the top of the crease and challenging shooters. He also has a quick glove hand. Kaskisuo could use some work on his rebound control, though this is often an issue for young goalkeepers.
Alex Kile, Left Wing, Michigan Wolverines, Junior (6’0″ 190 lbs)
The 21-year-old has been one of the Wolverines best forwards with 14 goals and 27 points in 30 games so far this season. Kile is a strong skater, with good acceleration and very good speed. He is agile and can weave in and out of traffic both with and without the puck. He is a very good stickhandler, able to make moves in very tight spaces. Kile has a strong shot and quick release. His wrist shot is heavy and can give goalies issues. His vision and passing ability are also high level. Kile could stand to work on his defensive game.
Justin Kloos, Centre/Right Wing, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Junior (5’9″ 179 lbs)
The 22-year-old has carried his scoring prowess from the USHL right into the Golden Gophers lineup, putting up 33 points in 31 games so far this season. Kloos might be undersized but more and more undersized players are succeeding in the NHL now. A common theme amongst those who do is their outstanding skating, and Kloos might be one of the fastest players in college hockey. His speed must be respected or he can blow past a defender on the rush and cut to the net. As defenders back off he can take the extra room to take a wrist shot with his quick release, or use the passing lane to set up a linemate. The big question for Kloos will be how much his lack of size will limit his two way game, but he’s an industrious worker who may be able to overcome that limitation.
Nick Lappin, Centre/Right Wing, Brown Bears, Senior (6’1″ 174 lbs)
The 23-year-old has had an excellent season with 16 goals and 32 points in 30 games for the Bears. A sniper, Lappin has an excellent shot and lightning quick release. He also has the soft hands to finish plays in tight, whether those be via tip-in or deflection. Lappin can also play the role of playmaker. He stickhandles well and uses his frame to protect the puck, extending plays on the cycle and then firing a pass to a teammate. He could stand to bulk up if he is going to continue to play this game at the next level. That said while he appears to be extremely skinny, he’s been tougher to knock off the puck than you would think, with good balance, and the instinct to roll away from hits. He’s not afraid to play the game physical either, getting in quickly on the forecheck.
Alex Lyon, Goaltender, Yale Bulldogs, Junior (6’1″ 201 lbs)
Lyon has had an outstanding college career. He put up a .918 save percentage as a freshman, a .939 save percentage as a sophomore, and has a .941 save percentage so far this year. While the 23-year-old will have one year of college eligibility left after this season, he could be highly sought after as soon as Yale’s season is complete. Lyon is a little smaller than most high end goalie prospects nowadays, but he has an excellent butterfly technique. His legs are lightning quick and take away the bottom of the net. He also has a very good push and gets post to post quickly. Lyon maintains his positioning well, as he is always square to the puck, even on rebound attempts. A quick glove and blocker take away the top of the net. His rebound control could use some refinement with an NHL level goalie coach.
Trevor Mingoia, Right Wing, Providence Friars, Senior (5’11” 190 lbs)
The 24-year-old Mingoia has put up 13 goals and 36 points in 32 games so far this season for Providence. He has very good speed and excellent acceleration. Mingoia isn’t the tallest player, but he is well built, which allows him to be very strong along the boards. He is relentless on the forecheck and in battling for loose pucks. Once Mingoia gets a hold of the puck he has the vision and passing skills to set up a teammate. He also establishes good position in front of the net and bangs away at rebounds. Mingoia plays a very straight line game, he isn’t the most creative player out there, but his bulldog like attitude and determination makes him very effective.
Casey Nelson, Right Defense, Minnesota State Mankato, Junior (6’2″ 183 lbs)
The 23-year-old is likely the most sought after free agent defenceman in this class. He has put up 4 goals and 20 points in 33 games this year. Nelson has ideal size and a right handed shot that will contribute to him being very sought after. He is a strong skater with good speed and accleration in both directions, and strong pivots. This helps in all aspects of his game, as he moves the puck effectively and can lead the rush or join as a trailer. He makes smart passes on the breakout or in controlling the puck at the blue line and has an accurate wrist shot, and a good slapshot. When defending his skating allows him to be able to keep the attackers in front of him and force them to the outside. He could stand to add a little more muscle to his frame and be a little more physical going forward, but has the opportunity to be an effective two-way defenceman at the NHL level. He’ll need a little bit of AHL time to develop though, as he isn’t as dominant and NHL ready as a Danny Dekeyser was a couple of years ago.
Ahti Oksanen, Left Wing, Boston University Terriers, Senior (6’3″ 209 lbs)
Oskanen was converted from defence to wing during his junior season, and scored 25 goals in his new position last year, spending most of the year on a line with Jack Eichel. This year he’s proven that it wasn’t all Eichel, putting up 15 goals and 34 points in 34 games so far this year without the phenom. The 23-year-old Finnish native has got all the skills to be a solid winger, but must continue to gain experience at the position. His game features strong skating, puck handling, passing and vision, and a cannon of a shot. Some teams may want to put him back on the point, and if so he can definitely be an efficient powerplay quarterback at the AHL level. That said he lacks one-on-one defensive skills and as such his future likely lies on wing when it comes to 5 on 5 play.
Tom Parisi, Left Defense, Providence Friars, Senior, (6’0″ 194 lbs)
Parisi is an excellent skater. He has great first step quickness, good speed in both directions, and excellent acceleration. Add to this good agility, edge work and pivots and you have a defenceman who can cover a lot of ice. The 22-year-old is able to join the rush and get back defensively. He makes good heads up passes with the puck, but can stand to add some power on his shot, and that is why he probably won’t be a power play guy at the next level. He plays a solid two-way game though, and is very tough to beat off the rush. He also works hard to keep the front of the net clear and allow his goaltender to see shots, while also working well to clear the rebound.