Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA hockey season is now over. While normally NHL teams would have to wait for each team to finish their season before looking at signing the top 2020 College Hockey free agents, the end of the season means these players have all now hit the market. Some have even signed already. Today we begin a look at the top 50 available players.
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, Drake Caggiula, Austin Czarnik, Torey Krug, Frank Vatrano, Zach Aston-Reese, Neal Pionk, 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 of 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 2020 College Hockey Free Agents available? I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by their last name for ease of reference. We will go through 50 names in five parts.
All our 2019-20 Top Shelf Prospects articles are available here.
2020 College Hockey Free Agents
Jordan Kawaguchi, LW/C, North Dakota, 5’9″ 185 lbs, Junior
Kawaguchi had an outstanding season with 15 goals and 45 points in 33 games for the Fighting Hawks. It was a breakout campaign as he equalled his combined points total for his first two seasons. While he is undersized, he has a powerful frame and low centre of gravity. This allows him to hold his own in the dirty areas of the ice, whether it be driving the net or battling along the boards. He has good vision to find passing lanes and the skill to put the puck through tight areas or make a saucer pass. He also has a good shot with a quick release. However, his skating is good but not great and this may hold him back given that it is combined with a lack of size.
Patrick Khodorenko, C, Michigan State, 6’0″ 201 lbs, Senior
Signed an ELC with the New York Rangers.
Following a disappointing loss in the Big Ten Tournament by the Spartans, Khodorenko became one of the first college free agents off the market, signing a deal with the New York Rangers. Despite his team’s disappointing season, Khodorenko put up solid individual numbers. He scored 16 goals and 33 points in 36 games, his third straight season over the 30 point plateau. Khodorenko has good size and pairs that with good balance and strong stickhandling skills. He is tough to knock off the puck and makes plays down low in the cycle game. His strong hockey IQ and good vision allow him to set up teammates, while he also has a good shot and the soft hands to score goals. He will need to work on his speed to really excel at the next level.
Matt Kiersted, Left Defence, North Dakota, 6’0″ 181 lbs, Junior
Kiersted was one of the top defencemen on one of the country’s best teams. He scored six goals and 29 points in 33 games. This followed a strong sophomore campaign where he scored seven goals and 18 points in 36 games. Kiersted is a strong puck mover, with the ability to carry the puck out of tight areas and then make a good breakout pass to start the transition game. His vision, passing skills, and ability to walk the line also allow him to quarterback the powerplay. His slap shot is good but his ability to sneak down and get off a wrist shot is even better. Kiersted must continue to add muscle to his frame and become an even better defender to excel in the NHL.
Tanner Laczynski, C, Ohio State, 6’1″ 205 lbs, Senior
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 169th Overall.
Laczynski finishes a strong Ohio State career with 11 goals and 34 points in 36 games. In four years with the Buckeyes, he scored 143 points in 138 games. Drafted by the Flyers, Laczynski could opt to become a free agent this summer.
Laczynski has a long, smooth stride that leads to good speed and quick acceleration. However, he continues to need work on his first few steps. is a strong playmaker, with very good vision and passing skills. Laczynski can fit the puck through tight spaces, or make saucer passes to teammates. He creates space with strong puck handling skills. He can control the play in the offensive zone, protecting the puck and slowing things down for his teammates to get open. He has an accurate shot with a good release. He also plays a responsible defensive game.
Cam Lee, Left Defence, Western Michigan, 6’0” 190 lbs, Senior
Signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Lee scored three goals and 21 points in 26 games this season. This follows up on a junior campaign where he scored seven goals and 23 points in 32 games. He is the nephew of former Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien 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 good 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.
John Lethemon, G, Michigan State, 6’3″ 190 lbs, Senior
One of the top goalies in college hockey, Lethemon put up a 2.13 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage in 33 games played. Lethemon has good size for a goaltending prospect as well as solid technique. He gets out to cut down angles. His quick pushes allow him to get back to his net on a deke as well as move laterally across the cross for a cross-ice pass. He has also shown good rebound control for a young goalie prospect. Lethemon is calm and composed in the net, projecting confidence and is a natural leader for the Spartans. He doesn’t let a bad goal get to him and is ready to make the next save. He also doesn’t overreact to pressure in and around the crease.
Alex Limoges, LW, Penn State, 6’1″ 201 lbs, Junior
After a solid freshman season, Limoges exploded in his sophomore season with 23 goals and 50 points in 39 games. While things were not quite as strong in his junior year, he continued to produce with 32 points in 30 games. 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 to battle for pucks on the boards and in front of the net. Limoges has a strong wrist shot and a quick release.
Will Lockwood, RW, Michigan, 5’11” 172 lbs, Senior
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 3rd Round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 64th Overall. Update: Signed by the Canucks
Lockwood’s rights are owned by the Canucks, but he could opt to become a free agent in the summer. He put up nine goals and 23 points in 31 games. Lockwood is a very good skater. He has a great first step and very good acceleration. He also has very good top-end speed. This allows Lockwood to get in quickly on the forecheck. Lockwood’s game is built on tenacity and hard work. He creates havoc in the offensive zone, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers. Lockwood has the soft hands to finish in tight to the net. He also has a hard wrist shot and good release. He can even score on the backhand. More of a goal scorer than a playmaker though, Lockwood’s assists come off of pure hard work. He brings his hard work and tenacity in the defensive zone.
Connor Mackey, LHD, Minnesota State, 6’2″ 183 lbs, Junior
Signed by the Calgary Flames.
One of the top defenders on the market, Mackey scored seven goals and 24 points in 36 games this season. He plays huge minutes for the Mavericks, as he is used in all situations. Mackey’s strong skating allows him to be effective at both ends of the ice. He has the size to battle in the corners and in front of the net. Mackey also gets the puck up the ice quickly, starting the transition game. His lateral agility allows him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes on the powerplay. Mackey has the vision and passing skills to quarterback the play from the point at the college level, but his ceiling is likely a second pairing power-play player in the pros. He has a good slap shot and understands to keep it low and on the net to allow teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds.
Josh Maniscalco, RHD, Arizona State, 6’2″ 205 lbs, Sophomore
21-year-old Maniscalco has been an important part of the Sun Devils as they have transitioned into Division 1 hockey. He put up 11 goals and 32 points in 36 games this past season. Maniscalco is a big defender who is willing to play a very physical game in the defensive end of the ice. He can throw a big hit but is disciplined enough not to get himself out of position and battles hard on the boards and in front of the net. He is also good in the offensive zone, with a huge point shot that other teams must make plans to defend on the power play. He is a very good skater for his size and this helps him to play a 200-foot game.
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