With the Frozen Four tournament on the horizon, 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 defensemen 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. The forward preview can be found here.
Jacob Bengtsson, Lake Superior State
The 23-year-old made the jump to North America back in 2018 and while it took a bit of time for him to find his footing, he became a key part of the back end for the Lakers the last two seasons. He has a pro-ready frame and is a strong defender. Bengtsson was believed to have some NHL interest last season and should have some this time around although it’s worth noting that he has another year of college eligibility remaining.
Akito Hirose, Minnesota State
The younger brother of Taro Hirose who has seen some NHL action after going the college route, the blueliner is a strong skater with a strong offensive game. The question with him will be if he can defend at a pro level as the offense should translate relatively well. Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal of The Athletic report (subscription link) that the Canucks are among the teams believed to be interested in the 23-year-old who has another year of eligibility remaining.
Colton Huard, New Hampshire
Unlike most of the blueliners on this list, Huard isn’t quite as far along in his development as he’s only played his sophomore year and spent a good chunk of it on the second pairing. However, the 22-year-old has shown a promising offensive skillset and, like many other defenders on this list, has the size that will be enticing to NHL teams. Huard is a strong candidate to stay with the Wildcats next season but expect some teams to try to change his mind.
Luke Krys, Brown
Krys isn’t going to be a blueliner that piles up the points but he is a stable defender in his own end which, coupled with a big frame that has room to fill out still, should attract some NHL interest. …
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