Its that time of year. The NCAA hockey season is about to come to a close and conference tournaments are about to get into 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, 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 3
Andrew Poturalski, Centre, New Hampshire Wildcats, Sophomore (5’10” 190 lbs)
The 22-year-old is having a fantastic sophomore season with New Hampshire as he has 22 goals and 51 points in just 35 games. Poturalski has a heavy wrist shot and a quick release which can surprise goalies. He is an above average skater, but could stand to add a little more speed, especially given his size. He does however make up for that with very good strength on his skates, and the agility to avoid defenders. Poturalski has good vision and can play the role of playmaker as well. He’s worked on his defensive game this year, improving his positioning and willingness to block shots. Poturalski does have two years of eligibility remaining should he choose to stay in school. He attended Sabres prospect camp last summer.
Derek Pratt, Defence, Connecticut Huskies, Sophomore (6’3″ 185 lbs)
While there are no offensive numbers to speak of, Pratt is extremely good defensively. He is a shut down 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. He 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 22-year-old defenceman needs to add some upper body strength to do so at the next level. Just a freshman, he could return to college for up to two more years.
Alexx Privitera, Right Defense, Vermont Catamounts, Senior (5’11” 185 lbs)
Privitera spent his first two college campaigns with Boston University, before sitting out a year and transferring to Vermont. This year, the 23-year-old, has put up 5 goals and 15 points in 33 games. Privitera lacks the ideal size for an NHL defenceman, but he’s a very good skater and puck handler. He can avoid forecheckers and either lead the rush or getting things started with a strong breakout pass. Privitera shows the poise to quarterback the powerplay, with good vision and passing skills to set things up from the point. His shot is decent, but could be harder.
Ethan Prow, Defence, St. Cloud State University, Senior (5’11” 185 lbs)
The 23-year-old defender is putting up better than a point-per-game with 31 points in 30 games for St. Cloud State this year. He’s another undersized but highly offensive defenceman. He has the poise to control the puck at the blue line and make plays on the powerplay, with good vision and passing skills. Prow also has a knack for keeping his shot low and on net, allowing teammates to set screens and get rebounds and deflections. He is a strong skater who can join the rush and get back defensively as well. Prow must add strength to his frame to be able to handle the bigger forwards he will face at the next level.
Andy Ryan, Right Defense, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Senior (6’1″ 205 lbs)
The Irish’s 22-year-old alternate captain is not the biggest scorer with two goals and 10 points in 34 games this season. However he is a good skater, with good speed in both directions, and excellent pivots and edgework. Ryan uses his skating skills to keep defenders in front of him and force them to the outside. He understands how to step up and make a hit at a key moment, and is physical in the corners and in front of the net. Ryan shows the ability to be a valuable stay at home defender with good mobility and a first pass out of the zone.
Nick Saracino, Centre/Left Wing, Providence Friars, Junior (5’11” 185 lbs)
Saracino is a great skater. He gets in quick on the forecheck and is a terror to defencemen going back to retrieve pucks, taking away their time and space, forcing them to move the puck quickly, and hitting them into the boards. The style creates a number of turnovers for himself or for teammates which can then be made into quality chances. He gets most of his assists by winning battles and then feeding teammates. He contrinues his gritty game in front of the net where he looks to screen goalies, deflect shots, and bury passes and rebounds. Saracino is a pest as his game gets him in the middle of any scrum and he’s on both the giving and receiving end of many a face wash. The 24-year-old has 30 points in 34 games this season.
Troy Stecher, Defence, North Dakota Fighting Hawks, Junior (5’10 190 lbs)
The 20-year-old defender has put in a very solid season for North Dakota. The only undrafted player who is a regular on the UND blueline, he has arguably been UND’s best defenceman, playing big minutes and in all situations. In 32 games he has 22 points. Stecher is an outstanding skater, with great speed, tremendous edgeweork, and the ability to cover all areas of the ice. He is confident with the puck on his stick and makes great breakout passes, and plays from the blue line. His shot could use a little more power, but its not bad. Defensively Stecher is extremely tough to beat one on one, and uses his lower body strength and excellent balance to win one-on-one battles with bigger forwards. Stecher is likely one of the most sought after defence prospects on the market.
Brandon Tanev, Left Wing, Providence Friars, Senior (6’0″ 181 lbs)
The 24-year-old Tanev is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev. He has put up 15 goals and 26 points in 39 games this year, his best year in the NCAA. Tanev plays a straight line, pro style game. He battles hard along the boards, and uses his good skating to get in on the forecheck and create turnovers. Tanev goes to the net and creates havoc looking for rebounds and tip ins. He also has a quick release on his wrist shot, and has good power and accuracy. He scored the championship winning goal for Providence last year.
Kevin Tansey, Defence, Clarkson Golden Knights, Senior-Redshirt, (6’4″ 216 lbs)
The 23-year-old Tansey has excellent size and uses it to play a robust defensive game. Tansey loves to hit, and if a forward comes down his side of the ice with his head down, he can expect to pay the price. He also blocks shots, and cuts down passing lanes with a long stick. Tansey keeps the front of the Clarkso net clear, and this is welcomed by his coaches and goaltenders. He is a decent skater for a big man, but don’t expect a lot of offence out of the stay at home defender.
Jimmy Vesey, Left Wing, Harvard Crimson, Senior (6’1″ 194 lbs)
A third round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2012, Vesey has grown into one of the best college hockey players in the NCAA. A finalist for the Hobey Baker award last season, Vesey could sign with the Predators when his season ends or could wait til the summer and become an unrestricted free agent. He’s put up 21 goals and 41 points in 28 games this season. Vesey has good size, and plays a power forward game. He is a quick skater, with good acceleration and top end speed. Vesey has a powerful stride which allows him to fight through checks and drive to the front of the net. When he gets there, he has the soft hands to finish in close. He can also stand in front of the net, provide a screen and get tip-ins and rebounds. From further out, Vesey has a hard and accurate shot, that he gets off quickly. He protects the puck extremely well, with good stickhandling, and uses his body as a shield to play the cycle game. Vesey is well balanced and hard to knock off the puck or beat in a board battle. His playmaking ability is really coming along. One thing he can do is change speeds effectively which he uses to beat defenders wide, or slow up and create some space for a passing or shooting lane. He is a very intelligent player, who makes smart plays with the puck on his stick, and finds ways to be dangerous without it.
Vesey is also a good defensive player. He again shows high hockey IQ, reading plays well and breaking them up. When he creates a turnover, he is quick to find the streaking man, and start the transition game. He also knows how to get his body into shooting lanes and is not afraid to block shots. Vesey does a lot of the little things that coaches love, and he is given big responsibility on the Harvard penalty kill.
Mike Vecchione, Centre, Union Dutchmen, Junior (5’10″, 194 lbs)
Vecchione had an excellent freshman campaign, as his 14 goals and 34 points in 38 games helped the Dutchmen to win their first ever Frozen Four Title in 2014. He then put up a huge season as a sophomore with 50 points in 39 games. Things haven’t been quite as good this year Vecchione has not had the same supporting cast but still has 28 points in 32 games. Offensively he has good speed, a hard accurate shot with a good release, and the vision and playmaking skills to set up teammates. He’s not a one-trick pony though, as Vecchione plays an excellent two way game. He is very good in the faceoff circle. He also provides solid backpressure and helps out his teammates down low. Vecchione has been a solid penalty killer for Union as well.