The CHL regular season has ended and the junior teams are gearing up for the Playoffs to begin this coming weekend.
Likewise the NCAA regular season is over and the brackets for March Madness (Hockey Style) are set and will commence soon as well.
This means for fantasy hockey scouts, the time to scour the transaction wire closely at Elite Prospects and Cap Friendly for free agent signings has begun.
The teams that failed to earn a playoff spot already have players that are free to sign a pro contract and as more teams fall by the wayside after each playoff round, more prospects could be filling the transaction pages of the above mentioned sites.
Furthermore, any NHL drafted prospects that also find themselves on the outside looking in of a playoff spot could be pursuing a late season audition at the pro level, either with their NHL club, or their AHL affiliate. These games lend their fantasy owners some valuable insights to their future. If the play well in their late season preview, we can expect a strong possibility of not only potentially making the NHL club at the start of the following season, but perhaps doing so and having an impact as well.
Some prominent prospects to keep a close eye-on include Casey Mittelstadt and Erik Brannstrom to see if they play for their NHL teams or affiliates now their seasons are done.
So who has already signed?
The Boston Bruins have been busy signing two of their top drafted prospects in Ryan Donato and Trent Frederic who have been playing (and dominating) in the NCAA. Boston also recently signed prospect Cameron Hughes and assigned him to Providence where he has already played in three games and has his first career AHL point.
Some other notable drafted prospects to sign recently include:
Matthew Strome – Philadelphia Flyers
Will Bitten – Montreal Canadiens
Maxime Comtois – Anaheim Ducks
Conor Timmins – Colorado Avalanche
Gabe Vilardi – LA Kings
Kole Lind – Vancouver Canucks
Perhaps less noteworthy, but still relevant signings also include:
Kirill Maximov – Edmonton Oilers
Ostap Safin – Edmonton Oilers
Tyler Steenburgen – Arizona Coyotes
Brayden Burke – Arizona Coyotes
Ty Ronning – New York Rangers
Alex Barre-Boulet – Tampa Bay Lightning
The Vegas Golden Knights signed NCAA free agent Zach Whitecloud, a big and mobile right shot defenseman. The 21-year-old has yet to play a pro game but projects as a bottom six defenseman. Not a lot of upside here, but if you can add him as a free agent, it won’t take more than a year to know if you have a NHL player or not. It is important to note he was considered strongly for Team Canada for their Olympic roster.
Here are some top players to watch that are free agents from the NCAA
Devin Brosseau (22), C, Clarkson University (Saint-Lambert, Que.)
Colt Conrad (20), C, Western Michigan (St. Alphonse, Man.)
Tariq Hammond (24), D, University of Denver (Calgary)
Tanner Jaillet (24), G, University of Denver (Red Deer, Alta.)
Nick Jones (21), RW, North Dakota (Edmonton)
Brady Keeper (21), D, University of Maine (Cross Lake, Man.)
Ryan Kuffner (21), LW, Princeton University (Ottawa)
Tyler Mueller (23), D, UMass-Lowell, (Regina) *
Brinson Pasichnuk (20), D, Arizona State (Bonnyville, Alta.)
Sheldon Rempal (22), RW, Clarkson University (Calgary)
Adam Rockwood (22), F, Northern Michigan (Coquitlam, B.C.)
Josh Teves (23), D, Princeton University (Calgary)
Max Veronneau (22), RW, Princeton University (Ottawa)
There are not too many free agents from junior to look for as they are free to sign a pro contract without violating their junior eligibility, unlike NCAA players. Once a player from the NCAA signs a pro contract, they lose their eligibility to pay college hockey. Most of the fantasy relevant free agents from junior have already signed (Aaron Luchuk, Alex Barre-Boulet, Brayden Burke etc.)
Don’t forget the players in Europe
The same watch list mentality should also apply to European prospects coming from Liiga, SHL and the KHL. Those leagues regular seasons have all concluded already as well and the same fantasy hockey scouting opportunities are present here too.
Check out this weeks SHL Report by Jokke Nevalainen for a great season review and playoff preview with some great names to watch for along these lines.