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.
A-F are featured in Part One here.
2018 College Hockey Free Agents, Part Two
Mattias Goransson, Left Defence, UMass-Lowell, 6’3″ 205 lbs, Sophomore
The 22-year-old defenceman has four goals and 13 points in 33 games this season. The Swedish defender is known for his work in his own end. He has very good size and pairs it with strong skating ability. Goransson maintains good gap control and has a quick stick. He has very good lateral mobility, making him tough to beat in one-on-one situations. Offensively, Goransson has a good shot from the point. He moves the puck effectively from his own end and starts the rush. However, he does not show a lot of offensive instincts in the opposing team’s end.
Gordon Green, Right Wing, Miami of Ohio, 5’8″ 168 lbs, Sophomore
The undersized winger has put up 14 goals and 31 points in 34 games. Just a sophomore, it is likely that Green heads back to school for at least one more year in an attempt to improve those numbers even more. At 21-years-old though, some team might make an offer he can’t refuse. Green is a good skater, with quick acceleration and strong top-end speed. He also has very good agility, and pairs that with the stickhandling to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Green also has a good wrist shot and an accurate snapshot. His quick release can fool goaltenders.
Jordan Gross, Right Defence, Notre Dame, 5’10” 185 lbs, Senior
The senior defenseman has put up solid numbers for the Fighting Irish this season with seven goals and 24 points in 34 games. He was even better last year with eight goals and 27 points in 34 games. He is also a little undersized, but has excellent skating ability. Gross has very good vision and hockey sense, thinking the game very well and he almost always makes the right play with or without the puck. He also has an excellent wrist shot and one-timer, with a knack for getting them on net through traffic. Gross could stay in school as he has another year of eligibility remaining.
Nicholas Halloran, Right Wing, Colorado College, 5’10” 174 lbs, Sophomore
After just nine points in 29 games as a freshman, Halloran has exploded in his second season. He has 19 goals and 44 points in 34 games for Colorado College. Halloran is an incredibly intelligent player, both with and without the puck. He is a skilled playmaker with good vision and passing skills, who anticipates well and uses this to create scoring chances. Without the puck, he has a real knack for finding open ice in dangerous places. Halloran is often open in the right spot and ready to fire the puck with a quick and accurate one-timer. He also has a very good wrist shot. Halloran is shifty and can beat defenders one-on-one. Once he gets by, he can cut to the net and create a scoring chance.
Tariq Hammond, Left Defence, University of Denver, 6’2″ 194 lbs, Senior
Hammond was part of Denver’s Frozen Four winning, National Championship team in 2017. This season he was named the captain and has put up four assists in 24 games while coming back from a brutal injury he suffered in that Championship game. There isn’t a lot of offence there. However, Hammond is an excellent skater and strong positionally in his own end. He is willing to use his quick first step and good acceleration to close a gap on an attacking forward and throw a devastating hit. He battles hard in the corners and keeps the front of the net clear.
Grant Hutton, Right Defence, Miami of Ohio, 6’3″ 204 lbs, Junior
Hutton has put up 10 goals and 22 points in 33 games this season while playing in all situations and taking on the toughest matchups for Miami of Ohio. Hutton is a mobile defender with good speed in both directions. He has strong pivots and agility, allowing him to cover a ton of ice. This allows Hutton to be involved in the attack. He has a very good slapshot. He also can make a strong first pass to start the transition game and is good at leading or joining the rush. While not a natural power-play quarterback, Hutton does have some playmaking skill on the offensive end. He’s better in the role of trigger-man though.
Robby Jackson, Centre/Left Wing, St. Cloud State, 5’9″ 187 lbs, Junior
Jackson has 15 goals and 38 points in 34 games for the number one ranked Huskies. He has mostly been used on the wing this year. The undersized forward attended Montreal Canadiens camp last summer, and the Habs have surely kept tabs on him as he plays with first-rounder Ryan Poehling. Jackson is a hard-working player who is willing to fight in the corners and in front of the net despite his lack of size. He gets to the tough areas of the ice and creates havoc. Jackson is a smart player though, as he makes good plays with the puck on his stick, finds open ice in those good areas, and is dedicated on the backcheck. Size is the real question mark here, as he has the other skills to succeed.
Mason Jobst, Centre, Ohio State, 5’7″ 159 lbs, Junior
The undersized centre has put up 19 goals and 41 points in 36 games. Despite his size, he 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 where 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, Junior (redshirt)
The Edmonton native has scored 11 goals and 24 points in 30 games as a redshirt junior for the Fighting Hawks. He played his first two seasons with Ohio State, before sitting out a year and transferring to North Dakota. Jones 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, Freshman
Keeper has put up six goals and 20 points in 35 games in his first year of NCAA hockey. Just a freshman, he could stay in school if the offers are not good enough to knock his socks off. He has also put up 86 penalty minutes. Keeper is very physical in the defensive end of the ice but will need to learn where to draw the line and stay disciplined. 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.
Ryan Kuffner, Left Wing, Princeton, 6’1″ 185 lbs, Junior
Kuffner is having a remarkable season, with 28 goals and 48 points in 31 games for Princeton. The Ottawa native has gotten better through each year of college hockey. Kuffner attended Winnipeg Jets development camp last summer. 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.
Embed from Getty Images