Monday, February 18, 2008

College free agents are untapped source of talent

There's something to be learned from the way the Anaheim Ducks watch college hockey. They don't just watch the 18-year-olds. They keep watching everyone and sign the ones they like. This column about their success is written in a confusing way, but still it gets your thinking cap on.

But the Ducks still had to spot those things before anyone else, and [David] McNab signed [Ryan] Carter, 24, after two years of college.

Carter joins Dustin Penner, Andy McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Curtis Glencross (now with Edmonton) and Ryan Shannon among non-drafted college players that McNab spotted and signed.

"We were motivated because we were afraid he would explode the next season and be one of the very best players in college hockey," McNab said.

"It's something we used to have success with, before the salary cap came, because you could spend a million or a couple of million on a guy that you really liked. Not every team believed in that sort of investment. But now, with the cap being tighter, the salaries for those players have gone down and more teams are getting involved. So it's harder now."

The rookie salary cap means that most NHL teams should be in the mix to sign college free agents. It's all a matter of identifying them and convincing them they will have an opportunity with the team. Many guys step right into the NHL lineup, like Steve Wagner of St. Louis this year. If you just said "who?" -- well, that's sort of the point. There's a lot of talent in the NCAA that's unexamined. Wagner is down in Peoria now, but he played 24 NHL games this year as a rookie defenseman. Good job, St. Louis too.


Johnny Sideburns said...

Gwinnett is one team in the ECHL that makes a living from signing undrafted college graduates as free agents...assuming they don't get snagged by a higher-tiered league between now and August I have high hopes that Chappy and Coach Pyle will sign undrafted New Hampshire studs Mike Radja and Matt Fornataro to finish out this season once their NCAA eligibilty expires and can will be able to keep them for next year.

And being the Michigan fan I am I am hoping that they've got an eye on undrafted junior Travis Turnbull for next season. Coach Pyle loooooooves the NMU guys, but a guy with Turnbull's work ethic, pedigree and four years of being coached by Red Berenson is always going to be a good signing. Hopefully we'll still have a chance to sign him by this time next year.

Holly Gunning said...

I saw Matt Fornataro play in the USHL for Waterloo several years ago and wasn't impressed. Naturally I wasn't surprised he didn't get drafted. But he certainly could have improved and could be ECHL material.