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 4
Tyler Sheehy, Centre, University of Minnesota, 5’10” 185 lbs, Senior
Sheehy was highly sought after as a sophomore after he put up 53 points in 38 games. Off-season back surgery led to a down year as a junior with just 25 points in 36 games. Things have improved in his senior season as he has 11 goals and 38 points in 35 games. Sheehy is an extremely smart player. He sees the ice extremely well and can thread the needle to make high-end passes to set up teammates. He may be only 5’10” tall, but he is built very solidly with a low centre of gravity. This makes him hard to knock off the puck as well as allowing Sheehy to excel down low on the cycle. He also has decent hands in and around the net. After a whistle, you will often find Sheehy in the middle of any scrums that might break out. He has excellent vision and passing skills.
Hunter Shepard, Goaltender, Minnesota-Duluth, 6’0” 209 lbs, Junior
After leading the Bulldogs to the National Championship last season, Shepard has come up with another strong season. In 32 games he has put up a 1.89 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage. 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.
Nico Sturm, Centre, Clarkson, 6’3″ 207 lbs, Junior
The 23-year-old German is the captain of the Golden Knights. He has put together an excellent season with 13 goals and 41 points in 34 games. Sturm has excellent size and plays a strong two-way game, even winning the award for best defensive forward in the ECAC in 2017-18. While he does nearly everything well in the defensive end, it is his offensive game that is also opening eyes. Sturm uses his size effectively on the boards and in the cycle game, winning battles, keeping possession and setting up teammates for scoring chances. He has the strength to fight off defenders and get to the front of the net for scoring chances as well.
Josh Teves, Left Defence, Princeton University, 6’0″ 170 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
Teves has put up three goals and 20 points in 28 games this season. Teves is a slick skater, with good speed in both directions, and excellent pivots and crossovers. This allows him to cover a lot of ice, and to play an effective two-way game. He can skate the puck out of danger in his end, as well as lead the rush on the attack. Teves also has very good playmaking skills, which he can use in transition, or in playing the point on the power play. He is strong positionally and has a quick stick, but must improve his size and strength to succeed in the professional game.
Odeen Tufto, Left Wing/Centre, Quinnipiac University, 5’8” 174 lbs, Sophomore
The undersized forward has put up a second straight big season with 15 goals and 42 points in 35 games for Quinnipiac. He 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 also has a good wrist shot and quick release. He has used it more this season and it has led to an increase in goals. 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.
Max Veronneau, Right Wing, Princeton, 6’0″ 181 lbs, Senior
Signed with the Ottawa Senators.
Veronneau is having another strong season with 13 goals and 36 points in 29 games. Veronneau is an excellent playmaker. He uses his strong skating and stickhandling ability to open up passing lanes, both off the rush or in the cycle game. He is able to shake off defenders either by quickly speeding up or slowing down or through a series of quick cuts. Veronneau is a smart player. He anticipates the movements of his teammates and defenders to create offence. He also has a good release on his shot but could stand to improve the power going forward.
Sebastian Vidmar, Left Wing, Union College, 6’3″ 203 lbs, Senior
Vidmar has 9 goals and 19 points in 34 games this year. While his points have dropped the last two years after the 41 points he put up as a sophomore but he has lost a lot of offensive support on the Union team. Vidmar is a playmaker off the wing. He is very poised with the puck and has good stickhandling ability. He sees the ice well and seems to have the ability to slow things down and make passes to his teammates. His skating was never his strong suit, but Vidmar has really improved, to the point where it is now above average. He works well with the give and go, finding open ice to take the puck back from a teammate and fire a one-timer into the back of the net.
Johnny Walker, Right Wing, Arizona State, 6’1” 185 lbs, Sophomore
One of the best stories in college hockey this season has been the rise of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Walker has had a huge role in that leading the team with 23 goals and 34 points in 31 games. This follows up on a 17-goal campaign as a freshman. Walker plays a very agressive 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 sniper from further out as well.
Josh Wilkins, Left Wing/Centre, Providence College, 5’11″ 181 lbs, Junior
The 21-year-old is having his best offensive season but has been consistent throughout his college career as it is his third straight 30-point campaign. Wilkins has 13 goals and 34 points in 33 games. Wilkins is a very good skater. His acceleration and ability to change speeds is a real weapon. Once Wilkins gets a step on a defender he can speed past and cut to the net. Wilkins is also a very good stickhandler and this makes him a real nightmare in one-on-one situations. Add in a good wrist shot and strong playmaking skills and its easy to see why Wilkins has been an offensive force for the Friars.
Nick Wolff, Left Defence, Minnesota-Duluth, 6’4” 209 lbs, Junior
Wolff was a big part of the Bulldogs National Championship season. 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.
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