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Who are the top college free agents? Print
Futures Watch
Written by Steve Wozniak   
Friday, 04 March 2011 04:06


The mad scramble for the next wave of prospects is about to get interesting as college teams see their seasons come to an end. Some come highly touted, while others have been flying under the radar for a while.

college hockey

NHL front offices are gearing up for the opening of the free-agent market. Not the one that opens July 1, when we find out who overspends for Alexei Ponikarovsky, but the one that opens in the next couple weeks.

As college hockey teams finish their seasons, seniors who were drafted out of juniors will begin negotiating contracts, while those diamonds in the rough who went undrafted get to sell their services to the highest bidder – or in some unfortunate scenarios, the only bidder.

AROUND THE NCAA

So while North Dakota’s Matt Frattin will be welcomed in Toronto by the team that drafted him a few years back, this gang of seniors will get to do some limited window shopping for a new employer as free agents.

Given this summer’s underwhelming crop of unrestricted free agents that will be highlighted by Brad Richards, and nobody else of tremendous importance, the mad scramble for NCAA prospects could be more interesting – and even more fruitful.

John Muse, G, Boston College (above): Muse made a name for himself when as a freshman, he played every minute of every game for the Eagles in a championship season. All he’s done since is win another national title, put himself and his team in line for a third in four years, and posted a career goals-against average of 2.37 and save percentage of .915 with 11 career shutouts.

Carter Camper, F, Miami: Camper was averaging over a point per game in his career at Miami even before this season, when he’s posted a career-high 50 points in 34 games. Coming off an 82-point season with the Cleveland Barons of the NAHL, Camper was only rated 181st among skaters in the 2006 Draft by NHL Central Scouting. After not being drafted, Camper put up a 71-point season for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL before budding into a star at Miami. At only 5-foot-9 and 173 pounds, Camper is undersized for the NHL. But that was the knock on former Boston College star Nathan Gerbe, who despite his diminutive 5-5 stature, has done well for himself with the Buffalo Sabres.

Andy Miele, F, Miami: Miele’s career numbers aren’t as great as those of Camper, his linemate, but he has still averaged over a point per game with the Redhawks. This season, he leads all Division I players in scoring with 61 points. Miele, like Camper, a bit undersized at 5-8 and 175 pounds, turned some heads last summer as an undrafted invitee to the Washington Capitals’ prospect camp.

Paul Thompson, F, New Hampshire: Thompson is the quintessential late bloomer. He got no interest after a brief stint in the EJHL, then was passed over in the 2007 Draft after being ranked 72nd among skaters that year. His first two seasons weren’t eye-opening by any means (12-point and 9-point campaigns), but the 6-foot, 210-pound power forward has in the last two seasons shown what scouts saw then but NHL general managers didn’t. He has averaged over a point per game in the last two seasons, and his 26 goals and 48 points this season rank among the best in the nation. Thompson attended the prospect camp for the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer.

Chase Polacek, F, Rensselaer: Polacek got some interest from NHL teams last summer after posting 52 points and earning All-American status his junior year, but chose to return to RPI and finish his degree. While Polacek may have been ignored by scouts coming out of Edina (Minn.) High School because he was undersized at 5-8 and 165 pounds, he has built himself up at RPI and now checks in at a ripped 190 pounds.

Justin Fontaine, F, Minnesota-Duluth: After a lackluster freshman year, Fontaine has posted at least 15 goals and 40 points in each of the next three seasons. Oddly, he’s a bit off last year’s pace, despite playing full-time with fellow Bulldogs playmakers Mike and Jack Connolly. Fontaine was an invitee at the Minnesota Wild’s prospect camp last summer.

Denny Urban, D, Robert Morris: While he’s not a huge specimen on the blue line like Northeastern freshman Jamie Oleksiak, Urban has become a solid puck-moving defenseman and a leader on a Colonials team in the midst of the school’s best season. After tallying at least 20 points in each of his first three seasons, Urban is continuing to add to a career-high 39 points this season. Urban attended the Pittsburgh Penguins' prospect camp in 2009.

Calle Ridderwall, F, Notre Dame: Like Muse, Ridderwall became a bit of an overnight sensation as a freshman with a star turn in the 2008 Frozen Four. Ranked 121st among skaters by Central Scouting in 2007, Ridderwall was never drafted. While he hasn’t yet compiled a monster season, Ridderwall has been a steady contributor to the Irish power play and has been good for 15 goals and 30 points per season since that freshman year. He’s spent time at the prospect camp for the New York Islanders, who drafted his cousin Stefan as a goalie in the 2006 Draft.

Paul Zanette, F, Niagara: Someone will take a gamble with Zanette, on the off chance that his senior year was a breakthrough and not an aberration. In his first three years at Niagara, Zanette had never scored more than 11 goals or 21 points. This season, he has already tallied 53 points and an NCAA-best 29 goals. Unfortunately, Zanette was so far off everybody’s radar prior to this year that NHL scouts have not had much chance to watch him up close.

Also on the radar:

Nathan Longpre, F, Robert Morris

Bryan Haczyk, F, Niagara

Brian Gibbons, F, Boston College

Mike Sislo, F, New Hampshire

Chay Genoway, F, North Dakota

Taylor Fedun, D, Princeton

Pat Nagle, G, Ferris State

Ryan Rondeau, G, Yale

Cory Conacher, F, Canisius

Tyler Johnson, F, Colorado College

Photo of John Muse by Getty Images

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in your your off chance time, take alook at Paul Zanette's numbers in jr. and minor hockey. You will notice Canadian Championship and a Chowder Cup. Small Potatoes!
Elvy Zanette , March 04, 2011

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Last Updated on Thursday, 10 March 2011 09:32