All the trade deadlines are over and Fantasy Playoffs are in full swing in some leagues. But this is the time of year where you want to be watching the transaction page on Elite Prospects for free agents.
This is the time of year where NHL teams sign free agent prospects after a strong season wherever they may be playing, be it in the CHL, NCAA or over in Europe. You may be able to be the first to sign a free agent in your league and gain a quality asset for free, or these may be the players you want to put on your watch list for the prospect draft later in the summer depending on your leagues format and rules.
Either way, there are often some really great players that you can add as we have seen in the past with players like Artemi Panarin, and Torey Krug. Sometimes they are a bust as we have seen in Fabien Brunnstrom and Kyle Baun, but that’s what were here for, to try and help find the gems.
Aaron Luchuk – Ottawa Senators
The previously undrafted overager is leading the OHL in scoring to date with 105 points in 62 games. Luchuk was acquired from Windsor where he won the Memorial Cup the previous season; now with the Barrie Colts he has developed some pretty impressive chemistry with Russians Andrei Svechnikov and Dmitry Sokolov. Luchuk is currently riding a 18 game point streak in which he has nine goals and 27 assists. The undersized forward will try to transition that success to the AHL next year in Belleville. Listen to the latest episode of DobberProspects Radio where we discuss Luchuk in the player spotlight.
Alex Barre-Boulet – Tampa Bay Lightning
After trading away prospects at the deadline, the Bolts used their empty contract space to sign the QMJHL leading scorer. The 20-year-old is running away with the scoring lead in the Q with 109 points in 60 games and has a 15 point lead on the second place Vitali Abramov. Boulet is an undersized forward, and has some skating concerns which have been the reason he was passed over in the draft.
Brayden Burke – Arizona Coyotes
Yet another undersized and over age player, this time coming from the WHL, Brayden Burke was recently signed by the Yotes.
So the common thread between all these players is they are all under six feet, they are all in their over age year, and they are all at the top of their league in scoring. Pretty impressive point totals as they are all over 100 points makes for a pretty attractive fantasy addition.
But be cautioned and remember previous players such as Tyler Boland, who last year as an over age player in the QMJHL scored 103 points (second overall behind Abramov). The 6-0 center is still unsigned and playing for the University of New Brunswick, where he has 27 points in 30 games…Not very fantasy relevant.
Another example of a undersized player that had multiple 100+ point seasons in junior would be Adam Brooks, drafted as an overage player by the Toronto Maple Leafs has had a difficult time adjusting to the pro game with only seven points in 42 games for the Toronto Marlies.
And don’t forget Conor Garland, who had back-to-back 100+ point seasons in the QMJHL. The undersized forward was signed as a free agent by Arizona and in two AHL seasons has a career stat line of 94 games with nine goals, 21 assists and 30 points. Again, not particularly fantasy relevant.
Vincent Praplan – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks signed a free agent forward from Sweden. Admittedly I know very little about him, but the 23-year old did represent Switzerland recently at the Winter Olympics and was held pointless in four games. He played one year in the OHL for the North Bay battalion back in 20 13-14 posting 53 points in 61 games. He should be a player to watch at rookie camp and training camp to see how he plays.
Colin Larkin – Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers are the first team to dip into the College Free Agent pool, signing the brother of Detroit Red Wings speedster Dylan Larkin. The 23-year-old has size at 6-3 and in his senior year as Captain at UMass-Boston scored 24 goals and 46 points in 47 games. He will finish the year in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors so you can watch his progress there.
Every year there are several prospects in the NCAA that become free agents. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a strong track record of finding players to sign out of College to play with Sidney Crosby and fill out their roster. These players can be sneaky good value in fantasy.
There is also a growing number of drafted prospects that play out their four years eligibility of college and become unrestricted free agents, such as Jimmy Vesey.
This article by College Hockey News Jeff Cox @JeffCoxSports gives you a great list of the top potential College Free Agents with some background and analysis on each player that is invaluable.
Here is a great article that features several college potential free agents from Ben Kerr over at Last Word on Sports
Another recommended source to comb through for NCAA free agents is a post by our own Jokke Nevalainen – NCAA Mid-Season Scoring Analysis where he breaks down the NCAA scoring leaders by age and includes drafted and free agent players to see where the FA’s stand up against more well-known commodities. It’s a great post.
Here are some names to watch the waiver wire for in case they sign.
Daniel Brickley – Minnesota State University
The 6-3 22-year-old defenseman is the consensus top ranked NCAA free agent as he has size, skating and offensive potential to play in the NHL as a top four defenseman.
Max Veronneau – Princeton University
The 6-0 22-year-old is only in his junior year, and could play his final year next year, but NHL teams will be trying now to sign the second overall scorer who has 50 points in 31 games. He is not under sized and he is a speedy skilled player that could step right into a NHL team as soon as next year.
Ryan Kuffner – Princeton University
Both Kuffner and Veronneau of Princeton are Ottawa natives, they both are in their junior seasons. Kuffner attended the Winnipeg Jets Development camp as an invitee. He currently leads the NCAA in even strength goals.
Nick Halloran – Colorado College
He is only in his sophomore year, but the 20-year-old is posting some impressive stats, in the top ten in the league in scoring with 44 points in 34 games, the 5-10 Right Winger should be getting some NHL offers when the season ends.
But if you want to do your own research on College Free Agents, College Hockey INC stats page allows you to customize the stats and scoring leaders to your hearts delight. Here is a sample of the top ten in scoring for jr. and sr. players that are not drafted.
European Free Agents
Perhaps the top free agent is Lawrence Pilut from HV71 in the SHL. The Swedish born Pilut is also an American Citiczen and is having a breakout year with HV71 scoring 37 points in 49 games. After winning the SHL Championship last year, the time may be right for the 22-year-old to make his North American Debut.
Antti Suomela is in his third year of Liiga hockey in Finland and has been steadily developing to the point where he is now leading the Liiga in scoring. The 23-year-old is a slight 6-0 weighing 172 pounds, but will definitely be talking to NHL teams about a potential contract.
Alexi Byvaltsev – The KHL All-Star is having a breakout season with 43 points in 56 games. He is on the small side at 5-11 and 190 pounds, and the “Russian Factor” may make him less desirable to NHL teams and fantasy owners alike. This could be wise, or make him a better value add.
Ville Meskanen – The 22-year-old Finn is having a breakout season in Liiga with Ilves as the 6-1 winger has 43 points in 46 games so far. He could be a player to watch this summer for sure.