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 the team gives one of these college free agents an entry-level contract, pays the player to play for their minor league club for a couple of years, and then lets 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
Ben Meyers, C/LW, University of Minnesota, 5’11” 190 lbs, Freshman
The 21-year-old took his time playing a full junior career in the USHL before joining the NCAA ranks. He had a strong freshman season with 10 goals and 26 points in 37 games with the Golden Gophers. Meyers is a very good skater. He has a good stride which generates speed and power as well as excellent acceleration. This makes him very dangerous off the rush. Meyers also has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. He can also threaten defenders with speed as he can make a quick move and cut to the net. His skating also allows him to get in quickly on the forecheck and create issues. Meyers needed some time to bulk up before going to university, and while he’s gotten stronger, he might need a bit more bulk on his frame going forward.
Marc Michaelis, LW/C, Minnesota State, 5’11” 187 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
The captain of the Mavericks is a German winger who put up five points in 13 combined games at the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Championships. This season he put up 20 goals and 44 points in 31 games. Michaelis is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration. He can beat a defender to the outside and take the puck to the net. This forces defenders to back off and Michaelis can take advantage of this by using his strong wrist shot and quick release, using the defender as a screen. He also has very good playmaking skills as he reads the play extremely well and can pass the puck through tight areas. Michaelis plays a strong two-way game.
Cale Morris, G, Notre Dame, 6’1″ 190 lbs, Senior
The 23-year-old goaltender had three strong seasons as the Fighting Irish starter, after playing just one game as a freshman. He has been brilliant, leading the Irish with a career 2.42 goals-against-average and .916 save percentage. As a sophomore, Morris and the Irish came up just one win short of a national championship and he had a .945 save percentage in 37 games. Morris has quick legs that take away the bottom of the net. He tracks the puck extremely well and gets side-to-side quickly. While he is not the biggest goalie, he takes advantage of his frame by getting out quickly to cut down angles. His glove and blocker are also strong. Morris, like many young goalies, will need to continue to work on his rebound control going forward.
Drew O’Connor, C/LW, Dartmouth, 6’3″ 190 lbs, Sophomore
Signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After the disappointing end to Dartmouth’s season, O’Connor was one of the first free agents off the market, quickly signing with the Penguins. O’Connor has good size and combines that with strong skating. He has quick feet and good acceleration. His top-end speed is also good. O’Connor combines this with the hands to make plays while moving at speed. He can score goals in tight to the net with soft hands and from further out with his good shot. O’Connor has also shown strong skills in the faceoff circle and a willingness to play a physical style in the defensive end of the ice.
Brinson Pasichnuk, LHD, Arizona State, 6’0″ 185, Senior
The captain of the Sun Devils, Pasichnuk is one of the most sought after undrafted free agents on the market. He put up 11 goals and 37 points in 36 games this year. This follows up on a strong junior year where he scored 30 points in 35 games. He has an absolute bomb of a slap shot. He also has good vision and playmaking skills and can quarterback the play from the point. His tape-to-tape passes to set up teammates with scoring chances. Paschinuk is a quick skater with good stickhandling skills who can lead the rush, or start the transition with his first pass. Pasichnuk has greatly improved his defensive game. He picks his spots to push the offence better and is less likely to get caught out of position. Pasichnuk has also improved his discipline in the defensive end of the ice.
Scott Perunovich, LHD, Minnesota-Duluth, 5’10” 174 lbs, Junior
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 2nd round, #45 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
After two national titles, and a solid junior season Perunovich could opt to leave school after his junior season and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, he could also sign with the Blues, or head back to Minnesota-Duluth for one more season.
Being just 5-foot-10, Perunovich needs to use his skating ability to overcome his lack of size. He is able to do just that as he is a dynamic skater in both directions. This allows him to cover a lot of ice and contribute both offensively and defensively. Perunovich creates offence through poise and creativity. He has the puck handling skills to extend plays and wait for a teammate to get open. When they do, he can make tape-to-tape passes through tight areas. Perunovich has excellent vision and hockey IQ. He is a true power-play quarterback. Perunovich’s defensive game is where the lack of size might be a bit of an issue though. However, his good feet and quick stick have helped him to be a strong defender in college.
Colton Poolman, D, North Dakota, 6’1″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Calgary Flames.
The younger brother of Tucker Poolman was the captain of the Fighting Hawks this past season. He scored four goals and 17 points in 31 games for North Dakota. Poolman is very strong in his own end. He maintains good gap control and keeps his man to the outside. While Poolman is not a big hitter, he wins battles on the boards and clears the front of the net. Poolman is also not afraid to block shots. He reads the play extremely well and creates turnovers with his strong anticipation. Poolman is very good on the penalty kill. Poolman can also create offence with a good slapshot and strong passing skills.
Greg Printz, LW, Providence College, 6’2″ 214 lbs, Junior
Printz had a breakout season, putting up 15 goals and 27 points in 34 games this season. He is a big, strong forward with good skating skills and plays a power forward style in the college game. His balance is extremely good as a low centre of gravity makes Printz hard to knock off the puck. He could stand to clean up his stride a bit, which would make him even faster, but Printz already moves at an above-average level. Printz gets to the front of the net and can score on rebounds and deflections with his quick hands. He also battles hard on the boards, leaning on opponents and winning his fair share of battles. Printz has a powerful wrist shot and a good release. He is also willing to work hard in the defence end of the ice.
Alec Rauhauser, LHD, Bowling Green, Senior
Rauhauser has had another strong season with Bowling Green, putting up 11 goals and 35 points in 38 games. Last season he had four goals and 26 points in 41 games. Rauhauser is a great stick handler, he controls the puck on a string and even made a name for himself by scoring a lacrosse-style goal on his backhand in high school. He runs the point on the power play with a great slapshot and excellent wrist shot. Rauhauser has great vision and passing ability, setting up teammates for scoring chances. He understands to keep his shots low to allow teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds. Rauhauser is a strong skater who can lead the rush. Just a junior, he could choose to go back to school to continue to work on his defensive game.
Justin Richards, C, Minnesota-Duluth, 5’11” 190 lbs, Junior
Richards was named an alternate captain prior to his junior season and put up 14 goals and 25 points in 34 games for the Bulldogs. He was part of the back-to-back National Championship teams in his first two seasons, graduating into a big role in his sophomore campaign when he scored 32 points in 42 games. Richards plays a 200-foot game. He is responsible in the defensive end, plays the penalty kill and matches up against the other team’s top lines. Over the last two years, he’s also shown that he can use his strong skating, good vision and high-end hockey IQ to create points. He gets to open areas without the puck and makes smart passes with the puck.
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