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As coronavirus concerns spread and precautions are taken, the NCAA is just one of many entities that has announced the cancelation of the 2019-20 season, which could be followed by a wave of NHL signings.
Granted the NHL has also announced a suspension of the regular season — a continuation or cancelation will be revisited at a later date — the abrupt change allows NHL teams earlier access to collegiate free agents and draftees.
In the past, conference tournaments would still be in full swing and hundreds of players would remain “unavailable” to extend offers to for the next level. But the cancelations of tournaments, including the 16-team NCAA tournament and the Frozen Four, allows some of college hockey’s top free agents and draftees to freely sign with NHL clubs without having to wait for the end of their NCAA seasons.
Some former draft picks have already begun forgoing collegiate years: Wisconsin sophomore K’Andre Miller has signed with the New York Rangers while Wisconsin freshman Alex Turcotte signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
With dozens of NHL prospects and intriguing free agents playing across the NCAA, NHL teams have the chance to extend contracts and add to their organization now, be it for the future or deepening a roster for a playoff run. Below are some of the biggest names in the 2019-20 season that would have been fixtures in the NCAA tournament and longer seasons.
Fr. | Wisconsin
NCAA Stats: 36 GP, 19 G, 17 A, 36 pts.
After a record-setting goal tally with the USDP, Caufield’s diminutive frame saw him “slip” to 15th overall (Montreal Canadiens) in the 2019 NHL Draft. He shrugged off critics with a 19-goal freshman season while scoring at a point-per-game pace. Expect a return to Wisconsin to further development, but Montreal could look for a contract.
Fr. | Boston College
NCAA Stats: 34 GP, 19 G, 23 A, 42 pts.
Newhook will be another stud in Colorado’s young core, drafted by the Avalanche 16th overall last summer. A dynamic freshman season with a resurgent BC team shows NHL success is all but guaranteed. With some cap work coming this summer, Newhook would be a cheap, effective option in 2020-21.
Sr. | Boston College
NCAA Stats: 148 GP, 57 G, 70 A, 127 pts.
Carolina Hurricanes draft picks tore up the NCAA in 2019-20 and the Boston College captain is certain to have an NHL contract in front of him soon. He has blossomed from a sixth-round draft pick to a consummate pro after four years with the Eagles; his pro career will begin as soon as the hiatus ends.
Sr. | Ohio State
NCAA Stats: 138 GP, 48 G, 95 A, 143 pts.
The Philadelphia Flyers have been one of the best stories this season, and despite not “needing” Laczynski, he’ll be with the organization as quick as the aforementioned Cotton; add in ongoing injuries in Philadelphia and that could mean an NHL tryout for the former sixth-round pick is on the horizon.
So. | Providence
NCAA Stats: 75 GP, 20 G, 71 A, 91 pts.
Dugan led the nation in scoring as a sophomore and was the only skater to reach the 50-point mark. His 42 assists also led the NCAA and displayed a unique playmaking ability that would go far on a Golden Knights roster with legitimate goal-scorers and even further next year after some needed salary cap tweaking.
Sr. | Minnesota State
NCAA Stats: 148 GP, 71 G, 91 A, 162 pts.
It’s only a matter of time before Michaelis inks an NHL contract, where he’s likely to immediately earn NHL time as a consistent scorer and leader. The German-born forward reached 40 points for the third-straight season and plays a game fully capable of translating to the next level. NHL demand will be substantial.
Sr. | Minnesota State
NCAA Stats: 152 GP, 45 G, 87 A, 132 pts.
As Michaelis’ teammate for the past four years, Tuomie has contributed to his success and vice versa. The duo returned for a senior season to chase that elusive NCAA title, only to be stopped short by a literal pandemic. It felt like their year and that hunger and feeling of coming up short is likely to push each player.
Sr. | Penn State
NCAA Stats: 147 GP, 61 G, 79 A, 140 pts.
Despite being on the smaller side, Sucese has succeeded at the collegiate level and reached the 30-point mark in three of four seasons with Penn State. He’s used his vision and intelligence to push the offense and be a scoresheet regular, which goes a long way at every level. An AHL job (to start) is certainly in the cards.
Sr. | Arizona State
NCAA Stats: 136 GP, 39 G, 68 A, 107 pts.
Defensemen — especially puck-movers — are always in high demand at the NHL level. The two-time 30-point blue-liner has led the NCAA’s only independent program from the backend for the past four years. As captain, he led the program to many firsts, which would have included an NCAA tournament berth prior to the season cancelation. He’ll get calls.
Sr. | Bowling Green
NCAA Stats: 159 GP, 29 G, 93 A, 122 pts.
Another defensive captain, Rauhauser has been the rock for Bowling Green, which ended the canceled season as the hottest team in the last 10 games (8-0-2). The blue-liner will receive plenty of offers and is likely to have his pick of the litter to choose which situation best suits his game at the NHL level.
The list of both potential signees and likely signees is much larger than the aforementioned 10 players, but the included names are due to solid NCAA careers mixed with skills, draft position, and NHL team needs.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.