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.
2018 College Hockey Free Agents
Erik Autio, Left Defence, Penn State, 5’10” 183 lbs, Senior
The Espoo, Finland native is finishing his final season with the Nittany Lions. He has two goals and 12 points in 28 games this year. While the offensive numbers aren’t huge, Autio is strong defensively. He is a very good skater and has excellent positioning. He forces opponents to the outside and steals pucks with a quick stick check. Autio also gets the transition game going, as he is able to stickhandle and skate the puck out of danger in his own end and make a strong first pass on the rush.
Louis Belpedio, Right Defence, Miami of Ohio, 5’11” 194 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Minnesota Wild.
Belpedio was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the third round (80th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft. The Wild need to sign him after his senior season, or he will become an unrestricted free agent on August 15th. Belpedio put up nine goals and 28 points in 34 games this season. He is a strong skater, with good speed and acceleration. He also has good vision and passing skills. Belpedio utilizes these to start the rush, as well as to quarterback the powerplay. He also has a good slap shot and a quick release on his wrist shot. He must get stronger physically, as well as better positionally in his own end.
Mason Bergh, Centre/Left Wing, Colorado College, 6’0″ 172 lbs, Junior
Captain of Colorado College, Bergh has put up 16 goals and 37 points in 34 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 skill with a good wrist shot and release and the vision and passing skills to be a playmaker.
Daniel Brickley, Left Defence, Minnesota State Univ. (Mankato), 6’3″ 205 lbs, Junior
Brickley could have been a top free agent in last year’s class as a sophomore but opted to stay in school. He has solidified his spot as a top college free agent with 10 goals and 33 points in 36 games this season. Brickley is an offensive force from the blue line. He has an outstanding slap shot, and a good wrist shot with a quick release. He uses both effectively and gets them on the net. Brickley is even more effective on the point due to his good lateral mobility. His ability to walk the line opens up passing and shooting lanes. Brickley also has good passing skills and vision. He could stand to be a little bit faster in his straight-line skating.
Devin Brosseau, Centre, Clarkson University, 6’1″ 194 lbs, Sophomore
Brosseau is having a solid season with nine goals and 30 points in 34 games this season. 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.
Bobo Carpenter, Centre, Boston University, 5’11” 185 lbs, Junior
The son of Bobby Carpenter has put up 19 goals and 31 points in 36 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, Junior
The undersized centre has scored nine goals and 27 points in 24 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.
Dawson DiPietro, Left Wing, Western Michigan, 5’11” 174 lbs, Sophmore
DiPietro is Conrad’s running mate with the Broncos. He scored 13 goals and 35 points in 34 games this season. He is an excellent skater. DiPietro accelerates extremely quickly and has great top-end speed. He can take a defender wide and cut to the front of the net. DiPietro uses his ability to change speeds as a weapon to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Defenders must respect his speed, and he can pull up and use the defenceman as a screen, firing a quick wrist shot at the net. Like Conrad, he is also good defensively.
Ryan Donato, Centre, Harvard, 6’0″ 181 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Boston Bruins.
Drafted in the second round, 56th overall by the Boston Bruins in 2014, Donato could become a free agent in the summer if he drops out of school this spring. He could also opt to go back to Harvard for his senior season. Donato has 22 goals and 33 points in 25 games this year. He also scored five goals and six points in five games for Team USA at the Olympics. The son of Ted Donato has a hard and accurate wrist shot, with a very quick and deceptive release. He knows how to find open space and gets himself open in the offensive zone. Donato is also not afraid to work on the boards or in front of the not. He brings a strong work ethic in all three zones.
Jake Evans, Centre, Notre Dame, 6’0″ 185 lbs, Senior
Drafted in the seventh round by the Montreal Canadiens in 2014, Evans has grown during his time at Notre Dame and is one of the top players in college hockey. He has 11 goals and 38 points in 34 games this year, and is the top scorer on the number-two ranked team in the country by seven points. Evans is a strong two-way player who does it all for the Irish, plays on the top line, plays against the other team’s top players, works on the power play, and helps kill penalties. He is a strong playmaker in the offensive zone, with good instincts, vision and passing skill. Evans will likely never be an NHL game breaker, but could provide some secondary scoring and defensive play on a second or third line in time.
Brady Ferguson, Left Wing, Robert Morris University, 6’0″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed an AHL Try-Out with the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs affiliate)
Playing in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, Ferguson doesn’t get the best competition in the NCAA. However, he has put up impressive numbers with 14 goals and 42 points in 36 games this season. Last year, he scored 19 goals and 51 points in 34 games. This Texas, Native is another example of the growth of minor hockey in the Southern United States. Ferguson is an excellent forechecker. He creates offence by getting in on defensemen and forcing mistakes. He is also very good in puck battles, and is willing to play in the dirty areas of the ice, and get to the front of the net.
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