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.
2019 College Hockey Free Agents
Mason Bergh, Centre/Left Wing, Colorado College, 6’0″ 172 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Ontario Reign (the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings).
Bergh has put up five goals and 20 points in 33 games this season. Bergh gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers in the offensive zone. He plays an aggressive style and does not back down from anyone. Bergh is an effective pest, going to the net and creating havoc. He will need to get stronger to continue to play this game at the pro level. He also has a decent wrist shot and release and the vision and passing skills to set things up. However, his offence will likely never be high-end at the pro-level and he projects as more of a bottom-six forward if he makes it.
Devin Brosseau, Centre, Clarkson University, 6’1″ 194 lbs, Junior
The captain at Clarkson, Brosseau has seen his offensive numbers dip slightly this year but still has nine goals and 20 points in 32 games. Brosseau is a slick playmaker with excellent vision and playmaking skills. He extends plays with his strong puck control, waiting for a teammate to get open, and then can feather a tape-to-tape pass through tight openings. His shot can use some more power, but he has a quick release and good accuracy. Brosseau is strong on his skates and tough to knock off the puck. He is effective in the defensive zone as well, with strong positioning and good faceoff skills.
Cal Burke, Right Wing/Centre, Notre Dame, 5’10″ 183 lbs, Junior
A strong two-way player, Burke has put up 11 goals and 26 points in 29 games this season. Burke plays a strong positional game. He works hard along the boards, winning battles and controlling play. He also gets to the front of the net, where his quick hands help him to tip in pucks and pick up rebounds. Burke has a strong lower-body and good balance. He is tough to knock off the puck. This makes him strong on the cycle and has the vision and passing skills to get the puck to teammates in good spots.
Bobo Carpenter, Centre, Boston University, 5’11” 185 lbs, Senior
Signed with the New York Islanders.
The son of Bobby Carpenter has put up 10 goals and 18 points in 21 games this season. He is a straight forward North-South player. He gets his points by working hard on the cycle, getting to the front of the net, and being effective on the forecheck. Despite his size, he works hard in battling for loose pucks in all three zones. His defensive game is well-developed and he does a good job playing against other team’s top lines and on the penalty kill. Carpenter has improved his skating, but there is still work to be done.
Colt Conrad, Centre, Western Michigan, 5’10” 187 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Toronto Marlies (AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs).
The undersized centre has scored eight goals and 28 points in 31 games this season. He is a creative player, who can beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Soft hands and quick feints allow him to get around his man, and cut to the net or quickly open up a passing lane to an open teammate. Once he makes the play he has the passing skills for a tape-to-tape pass. Conrad is well-developed defensively. He backchecks well and understands his position. He could use some work on his skating. While Conrad is not slow, he is not fast either; he’s merely average speed. Given the size concern, his skating will need to improve to make an impact in the NHL.
Joe Duszak, Right Defence, Mercyhurst University, 5’10” 185 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Duszak plays a ton of minutes for Mercyhurst. He is a bit undersized but is an excellent skater, which allows him to play a strong offensive game. He is strong on the puck, and his stickhandling allows him to transition and lead the rush. Duszak is also a very good passer who can start the breakout or can quarterback the power play. He also has a very good point shot and one-timer. Duszak also likes to sneak down from the point, looking for the opportunity to get off his wrist shot at the top of the circles. It is accurate, powerful, and features a quick release. Duszak has 16 goals and 45 points in 34 games. His strong skating and quick stick make him tough to beat in one-on-one situations, but he can be overpowered in the corners and in front of the net.
Matthew Galajda, Goaltender, Cornell, 6’0” 187 lbs, Sophomore
Galajda has followed up a strong freshman season with another good campaign as a sophomore. In 22 games he has a 1.97 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage. Galajda is a bit undersized for a goaltending prospect but makes up for it with his lightning-fast reflexes. His legs are extremely quick and take away the bottom of the net. He tracks the puck well and his strong push allows him to get across the crease quickly. Galajda also has a quick glove hand. His rebound control can continue to be refined but is already above-average for a young goaltender.
Mattias Goransson, Left Defence, UMass-Lowell, 6’3″ 205 lbs, Junior
The 23-year-old defenceman has four goals and 18 points in 32 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. He may never be a powerplay quarterback at the pro level but his offensive instincts have grown throughout his college career and he may be able to provide a bit of passing skill in transition.
Taro Hirose, Left Wing, Michigan State, 5’10” 161 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite being undersized, Hirose may be one of the most sought after forwards in this year’s free agent class. The 22-year-old has 15 goals and 50 points in 33 games this season. He has outstanding hands and can stickhandle in a phone booth. Hirose is extremely difficult to contain in one-on-one situations. He has the ability to get around a defender or just make a subtle move to open up passing or shooting lanes. Hirose has outstanding vision and passing skills. He can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight spaces. He also has a very quick release on his shot which can fool goaltenders. Hirose is also a very good skater which helps him to make up for his lack of size.
Grant Hutton, Right Defence, Miami of Ohio, 6’3″ 204 lbs, Senior
Signed with the New York Islanders.
Hutton has put up six goals and 17 points in 32 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 and still get back and play a strong defensive game. 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. Defensively, he uses his size to cut down passing lanes as well as play a physical game.
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