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 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, Mike Condon, Ben Scrivens, Torey Krug, Christian Folin, 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 they give out an Entry Level contract, pay a player to play for their minor league club for a couple of 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 College 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.
Prospects A-DI are available here.
2020 College Hockey Free Agents
Casey Dornbach, RW, Harvard, 5’11” 181 lbs, Sophomore
Dornback has put up two solid seasons for the Crimson. He scored seven goals and 29 points in 33 games as a freshman and added 12 goals and 36 points in 31 games this past season. Dornbach has excellent vision and passing skills. He creates passing lanes with quick hands and good agility, making a subtle move on a defender in order to open up space. His shot improved this past season, as it was harder and featured a quicker release. Dornbach plays a strong two-way game, as he is also effective in helping his defence on the backcheck.
Josh Dunne, C, Clarkson, 6’4″ 198 lbs, Sophomore
A big centre, who combines that size with skill, Dunne is one of the top free agents on the market. He put up 13 goals and 27 points in 32 games this season. Dunne has long reach and good hands. He also has good balance and a strong lower body. This allows him to be strong on the puck and make plays in the dirty areas of the ice. He also has the hand-eye coordination to finish plays in front of the net, as well as the vision and playmaking skill to create scoring chances on the cycle. Dunne’s skating could use some improvement, but it really shouldn’t hold him back.
Haralds Egle, RW, Clarkson, 5’10” 194 lbs, Senior
Latvian winger Egle has been a point-per-game player over the last two seasons. He scored 19 goals and 40 points in 39 games in his junior season before putting up 14 goals and 32 points in 32 games this season. Egle is a solid two-way player who works hard at both ends of the ice. He has a low centre of gravity, which helps him to fight through checks and maintain control of the puck. It also allows him to win battles on the boards. Egle can create scoring chances with good vision and playmaking skills. His best attribute is a strong wrist shot with a quick release. He utilizes this by finding open areas when he does not have the puck.
Matthew Galajda, Goaltender, Cornell, 6’0” 187 lbs, Junior
With a 1.56 goals-against-average and a .931 save percentage in 29 games this season, Galajda was one of the top goalies in the country. Galajda is a bit undersized for a goaltending prospect but makes up for it with his lightning-fast reflexes. His legs are extremely quick and take away the bottom of the net. He tracks the puck well and his strong push allows him to get across the crease quickly. Galajda also has a quick glove hand. His rebound control can continue to be refined but is already above-average for a young goaltender.
Zach Giuttari, Right Defence, Brown University, 6’2″ 190 lbs, Senior
Signed an ATO with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL Affiliate of the New York Rangers).
Giuttari was the captain of the Brown Bears. He put up four goals and 15 points in 31 games this season. Brown played huge minutes for the Black Bears, often logging between 25 and 30 minutes a night and playing in all situations. Giuttari is an above-average skater with good speed in both directions. He also shows good pivots, edgework and agility. This allows him to get around the ice with ease and helps him to play a two-way game. While he doesn’t make a lot of highlight-reel plays, Giuttari is a steady defender who usually makes the smart play.
Will Graber, C, Dartmouth, 6’5″ 185 lbs, Senior
A big centre, Graber put up 11 goals and 27 points in 26 games for the Big Green. With his size and skill, Graber is sure to get a look from NHL teams. He is strong on the puck, with good playmaking skills and vision. Graber is also able to get to the front of the net and can finish in tight. He is strong in the face-off circle and willing to help out in his own end of the ice as well. The biggest issue is his skating. He could use some work on his first few steps and his acceleration. These will need to improve for Graber to take the next step into the NHL game.
Nick Halloran, RW, Colorado College, 5’10” 174 lbs, Senior
Halloran had a strong sophomore season, but injuries derailed his junior campaign. He bounced back in his final year at Colorado College with 12 goals and 30 points in 33 games. Halloran has excellent vision. He sees open teammates and uses his passing skills to create scoring chances that other players simply don’t see. His shot is decent but he could stand to have a quicker release. His strong skating ability is combined with good hands. This makes Halloran particularly dangerous in the transition game. As defenders back off to respect his speed, he can feather a pass through the opening passing lanes.
Patrick Harper, LW, Boston University
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 5th round of the 2016 NHL Draft, 138th overall.
Harper put up 37 points in 34 games for the Terriers this season. He is a good but not a great skater. His speed and acceleration are well above-average. He also has good agility and edgework. Harper has dynamic offensive skills. He is an excellent stick handler who can make plays while moving at top speed. Harper can fool defenders and create space for himself to get off a pass or shot. He sees the ice very well, identifying open teammates and finding them with a good pass. His anticipation is very good. He also has a very good wrist shot and release. Harper’s defensive game is hurt by his lack of size and strength. He works hard but is unable to contain bigger forwards in the cycle game.
Max Johnson, C, Bowling Green, 5’10” 183 lbs, Junior
After scoring 43 points in 41 games as a sophomore, Johnson’s numbers dropped slightly this season. He scored six goals and 25 points in 34 games, however, he has improved his defensive game and is given increased responsibility of playing against the other team’s top lines this season. Johnson is a very good skater and this helps him to play a 200-foot game. His strong work ethic and willingness to battle on the boards, and in front of the net at both ends of the ice are also key parts of his game. Johnson is not afraid to make plays in the dirty areas of the ice. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer though.
Wyatt Kalynuk, Left Defence, Wisconsin, 6’1″ 181 lbs, Junior
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 7th Round of the 2017 NHL Draft, 196th Overall.
The Flyers own Kalynuk’s rights. However, according to the Athletic’s Corey Pronman, since Kalynuk was drafted as a 20-year-old, he could opt to become a free agent this summer. Of course, he could sign with the Flyers or could also opt to go back to Wisconsin for his senior season.
Kalynuk was part of a highly-hyped but ultimately underperforming Wisconsin team this season. The Badgers captain did his part though, as he put up seven goals and 28 points in 36 games. Kalynuk is an excellent skater who handles the puck well and can start the transition game from his own end. Most of the time this leads to a good breakout and dangerous transition but he does get himself in trouble with the occasional bad giveaway. On the powerplay, he shows good vision and passing skills, as well as the willingness to sneak down from the point and let off a strong wrist shot. Kalynuk also uses his lateral mobility and good pivots and edgework to play a strong defensive game as he’s tough to beat in one-on-one situations.
Check out Part 3 of the Series Here.
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