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
Jerad Rosburg, LHD, Michigan State, 6’2″ 205 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Dallas Stars.
Rosburg put up four goals and 17 points in 33 games with Michigan State. Following their disappointing loss in the Big Ten tournament, he signed with Dallas and was able to play two AHL games before the World was put on pause. Rosburg has shown ability in both ends of the ice thanks to his strong skating. He has good speed in both directions. Rosburg is tough to beat in one-on-one situations and plays a physical game on the boards and in front of the net. He also makes a good first pass to start the transition game. While he’s solid in many areas, the question is whether he has enough elite skill to play at the NHL level.
Austin Rueschhoff, RW, Western Michigan, 6’7″ 229 lbs, Junior
Signed with the New York Rangers.
Rueschoff put up 12 goals and 26 points in 36 games with Western Michigan this year. This follows up on his breakout sophomore campaign where he also have 26 points in 36 games. He is a 6-foot-7 forward who moves around the ice well enough for his size. This will intrigue NHL teams, though he will still need a bit more work on his first few strides. Rueschhoff uses his size to his advantage, getting to the net without the puck and causing havoc with his ability to screen goalies. His hands are quick enough to get tip-ins and rebounds as well. He likely needs some AHL time to adjust to the quicker pro game.
Hunter Shepard, G, Minnesota-Duluth, 6’1″ 209 lbs, Senior
Shepard was the Bulldogs goaltender for their back-to-back championships. He also put up a 2.18 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage this past season. Shepard is a little smaller than teams typically look for in their goalie prospects, but he makes up for that with exceptionally fast reflexes. Shepard is very good with his glove and blocker, taking away the top of the net. He also tracks the puck very well and moves side-to-side quickly, making a number of acrobatic saves in the process.
Nate Sucese, LW, Penn State, 5’9″ 174 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Arizona Coyotes.
Sucese finishes his college career with another solid season. He scored 11 goals and 38 points in 34 games for the Nittany Lions. Sucese may be a bit undersized, but he doesn’t let that hold him back. He is a solid skater, with very good top-end speed and acceleration as well as the power to fight through checks. Sucese gets in quickly on the forecheck and creates turnovers. He is willing to play in the dirty areas of the ice, getting to the front of the net and battling in front of the net. Sucese has the hockey IQ to be in the right areas. He also has the vision and passing skills to create scoring chances after creating the turnover or by setting up teammates on the rush. He also works hard in his own end of the ice.
Eduards Tralmaks C/LW, Maine, 6’3″ 205 lbs, Junior
After a strong freshman season with 11 goals and 25 points, Tralmaks struggled with injuries and scored just eight goals and 17 points in his sophomore campaign. This season the Latvian forward bounced back with 14 goals and 30 points in 34 games this season. Tralmaks has good size and marries that with plenty of offensive skill. He is able to use his body and his stickhandling skill to control the puck on the cycle game and can make give-and-go plays with teammates. Tralmaks has a good wrist shot with a quick release that also allows him to score from further out. He needs a bit of work on his defensive game.
Odeen Tufto, LW/C, Quinnipiac University, 5’7” 174 lbs, Junior
The undersized forward has been productive in all three of his college seasons. This year he scored seven goals and 38 points in 34 games. Tufto is a dynamic playmaker with the ability to make a number of passes through tight spaces. He can set up teammates on both his forehand and backhand. Tufto has the skill to slow down the play and wait for teammates to get open. He has a decent wrist shot and quick release. Tufto is a good skater and this adds to his ability to be dangerous in one-on-one situations. With two years of college eligibility remaining, Tufto could choose to return to school next year.
Parker Tuomie, RW, Minnesota State Mankato, 5’10” 185 lbs, Senior
The German forward had an excellent senior season with 14 goals and 37 points in 37 games. One of the older players on this list at the age of 24, Tuomie uses his skating to play a 200-foot game. He has good speed and acceleration. Tuomie can beat defenders to the outside and cut to the net. This forces defenders to back off and Tuomie can take advantage by getting off a wrist shot while using the defender as a screen. He also can take advantage of the open passing lanes to set up a teammate.
Johnny Walker, RW, Arizona State, 6’1″ 185 lbs, Junior
One of the best stories in college hockey over the last few seasons has been the rise of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Walker has had a huge role in that as one of the team’s offensive leaders over his college career. This season he scored 20 goals and 38 points in 36 games. Walker plays a very aggressive style. He is quick to get in on the forecheck and pressures defenders into turnovers. He also gets to the front of the net where he causes havoc and drives opposing teams nuts. While Walker is full of grit, he also has skill with quick hands and an excellent arsenal of shots. He can play the role of a sniper from further out as well.
Gustaf Westlund, C, Ohio State, 6’0″ 174 lbs, Sophomore
Westlund put up 12 goals and 26 points in 34 games for the Buckeyes this year. Westlund shows a lot of offensive talent, even if it always didn’t show up on the scoreboard this past season. He is a very good stick-handler. Westlund pairs this with excellent vision and passing skills to be a creative playmaker in the middle of the ice. He also has a very good wrist shot and a good release. Westlund has had some issues with injuries over the last two years. It might make more sense for him to spend another year in school and continue to bulk up.
Nick Wolff, D, Minnesota-Duluth, 6’5″ 229 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Boston Bruins.
Wolff was a big part of the Bulldogs National Championship seasons. Scott Perunovich gets the headlines, and rightly so, as the top defenceman and offensive catalyst for the team but Wolff plays an important role in that. Playing as Perunovich’s partner, his strong defensive game and his physical play allow Perunovich to rush up the ice and lead the attack. Wolff has also shown some offence this season with five goals and 17 points in 32 games. He makes a good first pass out of the zone and has a decent slap shot from the point. Wolff scored 10 points in 33 games, captaining the Bulldogs this season.
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