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As Stanley Cup championship anniversaries pass by, the typical NHL timeline has been cast aside from COVID-19 as the league enters Phase II of the return-to-play protocol.
But business has remained as free agent signings from the NCAA, Europe, and various junior programs continue to occur with regularity.
While players have returned to their homes around the globe to wait out the ongoing pandemic, several notable NCAA seniors remain unsigned but worthy of a flier from one of the 31 NHL teams.
1. Parker Tuomie
F | Minnesota State
37 GP, 14 G, 23 A, 37 pts.
Tuomie has put together three consecutive seasons of 37-plus points and averaged a point per game in those 113 games. Turning 25 this fall, the winger is on the older side of collegiate free agency, but he’s young and skilled enough to earn a chance at the next level.
Longtime centerman Marc Michaelis signed with young, rising Vancouver Canucks; perhaps the organization takes a chance on Tuomie to see if the pair can carry their chemistry to the professional level.
With 132 points (45 G, 87 A) in 152 games as a Maverick and a strong two-way game with speed, Tuomie plays the game as a third-line player at the professional level and has the upside to be more.
2. Julius Mattila
F | Boston College
34 GP, 10 G, 32 A, 42 pts.
After a pair of 20-point seasons on a mediocre BC team from 2017-19, Mattila broke out his senior season, tying for the team led with 42 points. The Finnish-born winger tied for third in the NCAA with 32 assists.
Mattila signed with Lukko in Liiga, more commonly known as the Finnish Elite League to Americans. Still, the NHL remains an option, but Mattila has set himself up nicely as the NHL continues to work through the pandemic.
Almost 23, Mattila remains on the younger side and still raw to NHL organizations interested in shaping him for their future. Finnish players have grown in the NHL in recent years and Mattila could be another tally in their track record of a dedicated two-way game with offensive flair.
3. Mitchell Fossier
F | Maine
34 GP, 10 G, 32 A, 42 pts.
Tied with Mattila for third in assists in 2019-20, Fossier has been a playmaker at Maine, where he has collected 38 goals and 90 assists for 128 points in 134 games. The Georgia native has great vision on the ice and makes his linemates better with his passing ability.
As team captain, the winger also offers the voice and determination of a leader in the locker room and is turning just 24 in late December.
Fossier showed growth in each year at Maine, which led to his top-tier playmaking in 2019-20 and a resurgent season for the Black Bears. He has the chance to be another NHL player who went through the ranks at Maine.
4. Mike Lee
D | Sacred Heart
33 GP, 5 G, 28 A, 33 pts.
After sitting out 2017-18 following a transfer from Vermont, Lee showed his choice was the right one in the end. The defenseman broke out for 33 points (5 G, 28) in as many games, leading the Pioneers to a historic season.
With mediocre career numbers (10 G, 48 A, 58 pts. in 119 games) due to minimal ice time at Vermont in an unfamiliar role, Lee showed his offensive ability at Sacred Heart and what he can bring to the next level.
The recently-turned 24-year-old still has a lot to offer the professional level and with defense always in demand, his chances of landing a contract are fair, be it in North America or overseas for further development.
5. Frank Marotte
G | Clarkson
23-8-3, .938 SV%, 1.78 GAA, 4 SO
The NHL goalie market will be an interesting sight this summer — or whenever free agency actually takes place — and Marotte has the chance to be a low-cost, developmental flier for an organization ready to promote from within.
Marotte was among the top goaltenders in the NCAA this season and posted his best numbers on a stronger, more well-rounded team following a transfer from Robert Morris.
Goalies don’t age the same as skaters, meaning his being 25 years old does not reflect poorly on his development or chances at the next level. In addition, his showing with a powerhouse program suggests what he’s capable of with the right system and players surrounding him.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.