American Hockey League (AHL)

2024 NHL College Free Agent Tracker: Analysis On All Undrafted Signings

2024 NHL College Free Agent Tracker: Analysis On All Undrafted Signings

It's college free agent season as NHL teams are recruiting the top undrafted players in the NCAA. We're analyzing every signing here.

Apr 4, 2024 by Chris Peters

The college free agent season is underway with many teams seeing their NCAA seasons come to an end in recent weeks. 

To keep you up to date on where players are going and how they might impact the NHL teams they鈥檝e signed contracts with, FloHockey is firing up the 2024 College Free Agent Tracker. Veteran NHL prospects analyst and college hockey expert Chris Peters will provide his take on each player that signs over the coming weeks.

This post will be updated as more signings come in with signings listed by NHL team in alphabetical order.

Last updated: April 4, 2:20 p.m. CT

Boston Bruins

Jaxon Nelson, C, Minnesota | Age: 24

Jaxon Nelson had been pursued by NHL teams since his sophomore year at Minnesota, but kept eschewing offers to stay in school. In fact, he even took his extra year of eligibility to try to chase a national title after falling just short. As a 6-foot-4 center, checking in at 220 pounds, he's got the frame NHL teams covet. Over the last two years, the production has progressed as well, enhancing Nelson's value and the interest in him. He finished his collegiate career with 81 points, 59 of which came over his last two seasons.

Nelson has improved his hand skills, making more plays and being more aggressive in his offensive play. Defensively, he's been responsible and willing to do the little things that disrupt the opposition including blocking shots and playing a strong physical game. He is difficult to play against at the net front and can get to the interior relatively easily and establish good positioning. He's also a menace down low and on the walls, using his physical strength to protect or pursue pucks. Should he reach the NHL, it is likely in a depth role even though he was a top-line player in college. 

Drew Bavaro, D, Notre Dame | Age: 23

A 6-foot-2 right-shot defenseman, Bavaro played four seasons of NCAA hockey with his first two coming at Bentley University before he joined Notre Dame out of the transfer portal in 2022-23. He had his most productive season as a sophomore at Bentley, posting 27 points. However, this past season he had a career-best 10 goals amid 20 points in 35 games for the Fighting Irish.

Bavaro is a two-way defenseman who is better in his own end. He plays a physical game and is aggressive defensively. He keeps a good gap and closes on opposing forwards well. He has a chance to be a depth defenseman at the NHL level, though I would not expect him to be particularly productive as a pro. Bavaro鈥檚 work ethic and competitiveness are hallmark traits that give him a chance to make it. Bavaro's contract won't kick in until next season and he's now playing with the Providence Bruins in the AHL.

Ryan Bischel, G, Notre Dame | Age: 24 (AHL Contract)

Bischel signed a one-year deal with the Providence Bruins in the AHL, and while I won't write up every player that gets an AHL contract I thought Bischel warranted one. The 24-year-old is listed at 6-foot-1, which puts him slightly below average in size for NHL goaltenders. What can't be denied, however, is how good and how consistent Bischel was over the last two seasons for Notre Dame.

He's a technically sound, smart goaltender who can make the big saves he needs to, but otherwise looks pretty composed in net. He played five years of college hockey with the last two coming as Notre Dame's primary starter. In 73 appearances between 2022-23 and 2023-24, Bischel posted a .928 save percentage and eight shutouts. He kept Notre Dame in a lot of games while not getting a ton of goal support. He was the Big Ten's goalie of the year last season and was a second-team All-America selection. 

By signing Bischel to an AHL contract, the Bruins can get a better look at him in the pro ranks and see how his game translates without committing one of their NHL contracts to him as they did for teammate Drew Bavaro. It's a low-risk addition with potential for some high reward if the last two years were any indication of Bischel's future.

Calgary Flames

Sam Morton, C, Minnesota State | Age: 24

Sam Morton was a goal-scoring machine this year for Minnesota State, popping in a career-best 24 goals in 37 games as a senior. He was named the CCHA's player of the year in 2023-24 after he missed most of last season with an injury. He delivered this year despite Minnesota State's lineup being significantly depleted by graduations and transfers following Mike Hastings' departure. Morton, however, stayed and captained the team.

Due to the injury last season, Morton ended up playing parts of six college seasons, playing the first two at Union before heading to Mankato. He put up 89 points in 144 collegiate games including 47 goals.

Morton has played in a lot of big games in his NCAA career including the 2022 national championship where he scored the long goal for the Mavs in a runner-up effort. He has a sturdy frame, gets to the hard areas of the ice and can really shoot it. He's got the work ethic that allows him to get to the interior and be a more dangerous player. Morton turns 25 this summer, which doesn't give him a lot of runway to prove himself. He'll have to really impress in his first AHL season in order to nab a second contract from Calgary. The contract doesn't start until next season, allowing Morton to get his pro legs to end this season with the Wranglers in the AHL.

Dallas Stars

Luke Krys, D, Providence | Age: 23

A 6-foot-2, right-shot defenseman, Krys had attracted NHL interest after captaining Brown last season. He opted to transfer to Providence instead of taking a pro deal and refined some elements of his game. Krys is a reliable, mature defender who makes solid reads and can close down opposing forwards. He has enough of a puck game to make some plays, but he will not likely be a major point producer at any stage of his career. He was among FloHockey's top college free agents for this season.

Dallas signed Krys to a two-year ELC, which gives them some time to see what they have here. He has some NHL upside thanks to his size and hockey sense. Krys won't excite you with any one thing, but he showed over his collegiate career that there are enough NHL elements that he was worth taking a chance on. In all likelihood Krys tops out as organizational depth with an optimistic outlook placing him as a No. 5 defenseman who can play enough to work into some matchups and PK. Dallas has done a really nice job of developing talent in the AHL, which gives them a chance to really maximize signings like this one.

Justin Hryckowian, C, Northeastern | Age: 23

Justin Hryckowian is a sturdy two-way forward who doesn't take any shortcuts in his game. He is an aggressive, gritty player with skill that is surpassed by an on-ice work ethic that makes him noticeable just about every shift he plays. He's only 5-foot-10, but maximizes his size with physical strength and a very detailed approach to the game. I thought he might return for another year of school, but after two years producing well over a point per game, he is probably as ready as he'll ever be for pro hockey.

The Stars have been aggressive early, nabbing two of the better free agents among players whose seasons have already ended. Teams are always willing to take gambles on players that show a high compete level and work ethic like Hryckowian has. I think he has a chance to compete for a roster spot within the next two years, likely in a depth or spot-starting role, but his progression over three years of college hockey is very promising.

Ben Kraws, G, St. Lawrence | Age: 23

The Stars kept up their aggressive pursuit of college free agents with the addition of Ben Kraws. The 6-foot-5 goalie is coming off of a fifth season in the NCAA after stints at both Miami and Arizona State. He saved his best for last, posting a .919 save percentage in 37 games for the Skating Saints, leading the team to a surprise run in the ECAC Tournament. Kraws shut out defending champion Quinnipiac in the semifinals before SLU fell to Cornell in the conference championship game.

The Stars signed Kraws to a one-year deal as he will turn 24 shortly after the deal goes into effect. It's a low-risk bet on a goalie who exhausted his NCAA eligibility and presents a big, athletic frame. Kraws' total body of work in the NCAA has been a bit of a mixed bag and he owns a .906 career save percentage in 89 collegiate games. He's still relatively young in goalie years and if this year was a sign of things to come, the Stars might have gotten to him at just the right time. I don't think anyone can safely project Kraws into an NHL net anytime soon, but a lot of these free agent deals are bets on upside. He'll get to play out the rest of this year in the AHL with Texas and try to prove himself further next season.

Florida Panthers

Ben Steeves, LW, Minnesota Duluth | Age: 21

With 45 goals over his first two NCAA seasons, Steeves has proven he can score. The 5-foot-8 winger also had 39 goals in his last year of junior hockey in helping the Sioux City Musketeers win the Clark Cup. His ability to fill nets didn't wane at all in college, as he had 21 goals as a freshman and 24 as a sophomore. In the latter year, Steeves's goal total alone was more points than all but one of his teammates as UMD really struggled for offense in 2023-24.

Steeves has some tenacity in his game and plays the game with pace. He has good touch on the puck and has shown an ability to score from distance with a higher-end shot with good accuracy. He makes plays in all zones and has a goal scorer's sense in terms of where to put himself and how to use time and space to his advantage. With a smaller frame, he manages to get into the soft areas of the ice and reads plays exceptionally well. At worst, Steeves provides the Panthers with a player that should score routinely at the AHL level, but he's got a good chance to press for NHL time in the next few years. Especially if his upward trend as a goal scorer continues.

Cooper Black, G, Dartmouth | Age: 22

An imposing presence in the net at 6-foot-8, 240, Black had two solid seasons at Dartmouth. In fact, the Big Green had one of its best seasons in years in 2023-24 with Black between the pipes. The big man is a raw talent in net with a physical package teams are desperate to work with to see just how much they can maximize his development. There's decent enough athleticism and instincts in Black's game to match with improving technique and mechanics. 

Size has been a major topic when it comes to goalies. Should Black reach the NHL, he would be the tallest goalie in the league's history. In speaking with some goalie experts over the years, there are some who wonder if there is such a thing as being too tall as the position is particularly hard on hips, backs and knees. However, when you look at Black's body of work, the way his game has improved year over year and some success in his junior hockey days, he's an especially intriguing prospect. It's no wonder Florida Panthers goalie guru Roberto Luongo wanted the chance to add him.

New Jersey Devils

Dyland Wendt, RW, Western Michigan | Age: 23

The Western Michigan free agent factory churned out another quality forward that has some NHL potential. Wendt played three years for the Broncos, seeing significant spikes in his point production each year while playing his way into a bigger role. As a junior this season, Wendt doubled his career-best point total with 44 points including 23 goals. When you see a progression like that, it catches your eye pretty significantly.

Wendt is a sturdily-built 6-foot-1 forward who is difficult to knock off the puck and hard to fend off when he's in pursuit. He has a good shot and an ability to put himself in high-percentage areas of the ice to create offense. His physical strength has improved in that he has some power to his game and when he lowers his shoulder, he's often going to find a way to get into the interior. Wendt's year-over-year progression may be the most intriguing thing about him. If he makes the NHL, it will be as a lower-lineup scorer with the ability to fit into a lot of different roles depending on team needs. He should benefit from creating more of an identity as a professional at the AHL level.

New York Islanders

Cam Thiesing, C, Ohio State | Age: 22

A gritty, two-way forward who plays with some jam, Thiesing is opting for an NHL deal after his third collegiate season with Ohio State. He will turn 23 next week and has been on the NHL radar for the last couple of seasons. He can impact the game with the physical side and plays with some jump. 

Of moderate concern, however, is that his point totals in college went down each year. Ohio State has been backsliding a little bit after being a frequent NCAA tournament threat, so there may be some team effects in that sliding point total. Thiesing has a track record going back to his USHL days of being able to impact the game at both ends of the ice. He's not an especially exciting prospect because I wouldn't expect him to be a big producer and he may even have an uphill battle to reach the NHL roster. That said, you can't deny how noticeable he is in most games he plays and that he does little things with enough proficiency to help a team.

San Jose Sharks

Collin Graf, C/W, Quinnipiac | Age: 21

The No. 1 college UFA on the market, Graf was highly sought after by NHL teams. He is one of the more skilled and intelligent players available on top having a winning pedigree with Quinnipiac. He was the top scorer for their national championship team last season and was highly productive again this year despite some early season injuries. Graf finished his NCAA career with 130 points in 112 games.

A true late bloomer, Graf's value as a college free agent lies in the upside a player with his level of hockey sense can provide. Additionally, his developmentally trajectory has been on a sharp incline since his sophomore season with the Bobcats. Graf isn't particularly big or strong, but he's skilled, shifty and creative. He has high-end vision and soft touch on pucks to make good plays. He's able to scan the ice effectively and can exploit deficiencies in defenses and picks apart goalies when he's got a chance to shoot. At just 21 years old, he's a younger college free agent, which lengthens the developmental runway for him. San Jose is going to be able to provide the quickest path to the NHL for him. I do think he has an outside chance at being a top-six producer, but I'd be more comfortable projecting him as a third-line winger with an ability to provide some scoring depth.

Seattle Kraken

Lleyton Roed, C, Bemidji State | Age: 21

The Seattle Kraken have only had a couple of draft classes to fill up their prospect pool, so going the college free agent route is always a good idea for them with some contracts to spare. They're getting a player that could well fit a role for them in the near future in Lleyton Roed, a 5-foot-11 forward who turns 22 in August. 

Over two seasons with Bemidji State, Roed was a reliable source of offense. On top of that, he played an energetic, gritty two-way style that was highlighted by his notable speed. Roed also has a clear work ethic on the ice, where he can be a factor without the puck as a disruptive player on both the forecheck or in the defensive end. On top of that, he can score. He had 30 or more points in each of his two NCAA seasons and was an all-conference selection in the CCHA this year. Roed has a track record going back to his last year in the USHL and at just 21, there's time for him to reach more ceiling. 

If Roed finds his way to the NHL roster, it's likely as more of a depth player who contributes at both ends of the ice and gives the team a little more scoring depth. 

Victor 脰stman, G, Maine | Age: 23

脰stman entered the season as the No. 1 free agent goalie in college hockey. Some believed he would sign after his highly-successful junior season with the Black Bears, but 脰stman stayed as Maine was expected to take a big step forward this season. The team did, but the senior goaltender faltered. He had an .892 save percentage and lost his starting job to a freshman late in the season. 脰stman was pressed into duty at the NCAA Tournament, however, when Albin Boija fell ill. The Black Bears lost in the opening round.

While 脰stman's play declined, the interest in him as a pro asset did not. Goalies have down years and this was an unfortunate time for one, but the Swedish netminder still has a lot of tools that NHL clubs want to work with. He's 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds, has solid technique and plays a very predictable style. This year, he wasn't particularly consistent, which is some cause for concern, but the year before he had a .918 save percentage with five shutouts on a Maine squad that was kind of middle-of-the-pack in their conference. This year, the team could score, but defending was not particularly strong. 脰stman's pro outlook is a bit cloudier, but he still has enough upside to explore with the Kraken organization. I would not be shocked to see him spend time in the ECHL next season to get his pro legs under him.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Jacob Quillan, C, Quinnipiac | Age: 22

The hero of the 2023 NCAA national championship game, scoring the golden goal that gave Quinnipiac its first NCAA title in any sport, Quillan comes in with pedigree. Over the last two seasons, the Nova Scotia native was among the top players in college hockey. He had a career year as a senior in 2023-24, posting 46 points. Over the last two seasons, Quillan put up 36 goals with a career-best of 19 as a junior. 

What stands out about Quillan is his effort level on the ice. He's an aggressive, quick player who is on the puck a lot and makes himself difficult to play against. Quillan comes in at about 6-foot, 195 pounds and plays with a lot of tenacity on or off the puck. Quillan's skill level will not blow you away, but it's proficient enough to play at the pro level and contribute offensively. He'd likely find a role down a team's lineup and provide some scoring depth. He's versatile enough to find a role and his work ethic will make him a legit threat to land a roster spot in the next few years.

Vancouver Canucks

Christian Felton, D, Merrimack | Age: 24

A right-shot defenseman with a solid frame, Felton was not a player that was really on my radar to earn a contract. He had 17 career NCAA points in 98 games and a player with his statistical profile is often unlikely to find an NHL home. That said, Felton has a higher-end skating ability and good defensive sense. 

Merrimack has a good track record of developing defensemen over the last few years and Felton is another that brings some intrigue. He was a key player in last year鈥檚 unexpected run to the NCAA tournament. If he makes it, it鈥檚 likely as a depth defenseman who kills penalties. More than likely he鈥檚 going to be a solid contributor at the AHL level, but his lack of a strong game with the puck on his stick could limit his long-term pro prospects. Felton is expected to join the AHL's Abbotsford Canucks in the near future.

Who are the top college free agents in 2024?

According to FloSports prospect analyst, Quinnipiac's Collin Graf leads the list of top undrafted free agents in college hockey this year. See the full list, including underclassmen to watch, here.

  • Collin Graf, C/W, Quinnipiac
  • Jacob Quillan, C, Quinnipiac
  • Victor 脰stman, G, Maine
  • Christian Fitzgerald, C, Wisconsin
  • Riese Gaber, C/W, North Dakota
  • Luke Krys, D, Providence
  • Jaxon Nelson, C, Minnesota
  • Josh Eernisse, RW, Michigan
  • Dylan Wendt, RW, Western Michigan
  • Cooper Black, G, Dartmouth

Where can I watch the CCHA Mason Cup Championship Game?

FloHockey is the exclusive streaming home of the CCHA's Mason Cup Playoffs. Bemidji State is set to host Michigan Tech in the championship game Friday, March 22 at 7:07 p.m. CT. The winner of the game will win the Mason Cup and earn an automatic bid to the 2024 NCAA men's hockey tournament.

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Where can I watch the Atlantic Hockey Championship Game?

FloHockey is the exclusive streaming home the Atlantic Hockey Postseason. RIT will host AIC in the championship game Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The winner of the game will win the Jack Riley Memorial Trophy and earn an automatic bid to the 2024 NCAA men's hockey tournament.

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