With the NCAA playoffs in full force and the Frozen Four coming soon, there should be some activity on the college free agent front in the coming weeks. At this time of year, college free agents are rarely coming in as impact prospects with high NHL ceilings (and this year is no exception) but it’s an opportunity for teams to add some depth pieces that are further along in their development compared to players coming out of major junior.
Here is an overview of some of the forwards that should be drawing NHL interest in the near future. Note that not all of these players will sign entry-level contracts as some will ultimately elect to return to college for another season while quite a few others not on this list will sign NHL or AHL deals in the coming weeks.
C Parker Ford, Providence
An undersized middleman at 5’9, Ford nevertheless plays with an edge and can play in all situations. Offensively, his numbers have been pretty steady throughout his four-year college career, ranging from 19 to 27 points. Ford is presently the leading scorer on a Friars team that has nine NHL draft picks on it as well. The 22-year-old might not be in high demand because of his size but he’s still a good bet to land an entry-level deal.
RW Riese Gaber, North Dakota
It’s believed that Gaber had some NHL interest last year but opted to return to the Fighting Hawks for his junior campaign. A small but speedy winger, the 23-year-old has hovered around the point-per-game mark for the last two seasons and had a pair of years of at least 50 points at the USHL level as well. With Gaber’s production not really improving too much this year, there would be a bit more risk of him potentially plateauing if he opted to forego signing an NHL deal this time around.
RW Collin Graf, Quinnipiac
It was a bit of a surprise when Graf entered the transfer portal following what was a solid freshman campaign with Union College but it’s safe to say the decision worked out. The 20-year-old saw his numbers improve across the board to the tune of 19 goals and 33 assists in 35 games, good for first on the Bobcats and second in the NCAA overall beyond only Adam Fantilli. On the one hand, a year like this is an ideal platform to try to land an NHL contract but he could be better served going back for one more year to fill out and work on his skating a bit more.
C T.J. Hughes, Michigan
Hughes is the Wolverines’ second-line pivot behind Fantilli and is having a nice freshman…
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