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 – Part 3
Marc Michaelis, Centre/Left Wing, Minnesota State Mankato, 5’10” 174 lbs, Junior
The captain of the Mavericks is a German winger who put up three points in seven games at the 2018 IIHF World Championships. This season he has 16 goals and 36 points in 36 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 with a strong wrist shot and 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.
Rob Michel, Right Defence, University of Maine, 6’2″ 194 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL Affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers).
The captain of the Black Bears, Michel has three goals and nine points in 33 games this season. He is a very good skater. Michel has good speed and acceleration in both directions. His smooth pivots and good agility allow him to quickly transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. Michel is a strong two-way player with a good slapshot and wrist shot. He makes a strong first pass out of the zone but is not really a powerplay quarterback. Instead, he works best as the trigger man on the point. Michel is best known for his defensive game. His skating ability makes him tough to beat one-on-one. Meanwhile, his size allows Michel to play a physical game in the corners and to clear the front of the net.
Cale Morris, Goaltender, Notre Dame, 6’1″ 190 lbs, Junior
The 22-year-old goaltender is having his second straight strong season as the Fighting Irish starter, after playing just one game as a freshman. He has been brilliant, leading the Irish with a 2.38 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage. Last season, 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.
Patrick Newell, Left Wing, St. Cloud State, 5’9” 150 lbs, Senior
Signed with the New York Rangers.
An undersized forward, Newell has scored 18 goals and 39 points in 32 games. Newell makes up for his lack of size with excellent skating ability. He is very fast and has lightning quick acceleration. This helps him to create odd-man rushes and offence out of the transition game. He also has very quick hands which he combines with excellent agility and edgework. This allows him to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Newell also has excellent vision and passing ability. He has a good release on his wrist shot and has become more confident in using that shot this season.
Brinson Pasichnuk, Left Defence, Arizona State University, 6’0″ 185 lbs, Junior
Pasichnuk has been a key offensive contributor on a much-improved Arizona State team. In 34 games, he has 12 goals and 29 points, good for second on the team in scoring. He has an absolute bomb of a slap shot, which he unleashes from the right point on the power play. 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. He is a quick skater with good stickhandling skills who can lead the rush, or start the transition with a strong first pass. Pasichnuk has greatly improved his defensive game this year. 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.
Colton Poolman, Left Defence, North Dakota, 6’1” 194 lbs, Junior
The younger brother of Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman, Colton has put up five goals and 15 points in 31 games this season. The 23-year-old is captain of the Fighting Hawks. 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.
Brogan Rafferty, Right Defence, Quinnipiac University, 6’2″ 192 lbs, Junior
Signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
The 23-year-old defenseman put up four goals and 22 points in 34 games this season, improving on his sophomore numbers. He has attended development camps with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers over the last two summers. Rafferty is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice. He is a strong stick handler and has the agility and shiftiness to skate the puck out of danger. Rafferty also has good passing skills and can start the rush, or set up plays from the blue line. His agility allows him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. His defensive game is getting better, as he improves his positioning and learns how to use his size to battle for loose pucks in the corners and in front of the net.
Alec Rauhauser, Left Defence, Bowling Green, 6’3″ 216 lbs, Junior
Rauhauser has had another strong season with Bowling Green, putting up three goals and 24 points in 35 games. Last season he had nine goals and 39 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.
Jimmy Schuldt, Left Defence, St. Cloud State, 6’1″ 205 lbs, Senior
The captain of the Huskies, Schuldt has attended the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights development camps in recent years. Schuldt has nine goals and 28 points in 32 games this season. The 23-year-old defenceman also plays a strong defensive game. Opposing forwards have to be careful not to come up Schuldt’s side with their heads down, as he is more than willing to take them out with a big hit. He clears the front of the net and shows strong containment in the cycle game as well. As is clear from his numbers Schuldt can provide some offence as well. He makes a strong first pass out of the zone and has the vision and playmaking skill to quarterback the powerplay. He also has a big slapshot from the point.
Corey Schueneman, Left Defence, Western Michigan, 6’0″ 201 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Stockton Heat (AHL Affiliate of the Calgary Flames).
Schueneman has put up one goal and 14 points in 32 games for the Broncos this year, down from five goals and 26 points in 34 games as a Junior. Schueneman is a smart defender. He uses good vision and playmaking skill to quarterback the Broncos powerplay. While he has a powerful shot, he knows that getting it through shooting lanes, and keeping it low for teammates to get deflections and rebounds enhance his team’s offence. Schueneman has very good agility and can walk the line to open up passing and shooting lanes. He plays a solid defensive game, keeping good gap control and keeping attackers to the outside on the rush. He is not afraid to lay a hit but is disciplined enough not to get himself out of position looking to throw one.
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