March 24 2013 12:05PM
Long, tall forward Antoine Laganiere is one of the top college free agents available during the spring signing season. In recent years, Edmonton has stepped up their signing of college free agents, with Justin Schultz, Taylor Fedun and Tanner House current Oilers/prospects in the house via this route. Will Edmonton sign Laganiere or another graduating college player?
As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, there are reasons to believe Edmonton is placing a stronger emphasis on college free agency:
- Edmonton's success in signing Justin Schultz suggests young college free agents have noticed the outstanding talent base in the NHL's northern city. It's a good group with a strong future.
- The Oilers are putting more emphasis on this area, as shown by signings of Taylor Fedun, Tanner House, Bryan Lerg and others (plus Schultz, of course) in recent seasons.
- Craig MacTavish is one of the men checking on the NCAA free agents. MacT to Terry Jones:“My day-to-day stuff has been to keep a handle on the top 60 draft eligible players, tracking the kids we’ve drafted and seeing what their development is and where they fit in, as well as keeping an eye on free agents in the CHL and NCAA."
- One of Scott Howson's assignments this spring is college free agency.
SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED
There are a few free agents who have already signed with NHL teams. They include giant defenseman Andrej Sustr (Tampa Bay), C Kyle Flanagan (Philadelphia), 6.06, 220 C Kellan Lain (Vancouver), G Jared Coreau (Detroit) and G Andrew Hammond (Ottawa).
The cream of the crop. Here are 10:
- D Danny DeKeyser, Western Michigan: He's been on the radar for over a year now and is still eligible to return for one more college season. DeKeyser has been linked to Detroit Red Wings for some time, and he is a 'plug and play' option (meaning he is likely able to step right into the NHL).
- R Antoine Laganiere, Yale: 6.04, 215 and he can score goals. Laganiere has attended pro camps with Vancouver and Edmonton, one would think both clubs are extremely interested in his services. Yale made it to the tournament so there will be a delay in signing this player.
- R Eriah Hayes, Minnesota State: Power forward had a strong season (19 goals) on the strength of a terrific wrist shot and a willingness to drive to the net. Oilers are no doubt interested. 6.04, 210.
- L Ryan Walters, Nebraska-Omaha: Impressive season (22-30-52) from junior forward has NHL teams very interested in him. Very good skater.
- D Nate Schmidt, Minnesota: Puck moving defender with decent size (6.00, 199), he has another year of eligibility but there will be plenty of interest if he decides to turn pro.
- C Drew Leblanc, St. Cloud State. Leads NCAA with 37 assists this season, playmaking center has a nice range of skills and as an older player (24 this summer) may be able to step right in and play for some teams.
- G Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac: Hobey top 10 finalist and a .935SP have scouts taking notice. 6.04 G was also named the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year on the eve of the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend.
- D Mike Boivin, Colorado College: Another puck mover, he's tough and has decent size for the NHL game. Unlike some of the men on this list, Boivin should be able to sign this week.
- F Rylan Schwartz: Brother of St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz, an offensive player of some ability, he is considered more of a playmaker than scorer.
- F Alex Krushelnyski, Colorado College: He isn't big (5.11, 173) and he doesn't fight but he's an even strength dynamo, is part of the penalty kill and at age 22 is probably ready to step right into AHL level pro hockey. He's a winger, goes to Colorado College and majors in Economics. Mike's boy.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Someday soon we'll drag our briquets out and have a barbeque all our own; we'll talk about the Oilers and the 2013-14 season, and argue over how much they've improved. My guess is we'll have at least one college free agent signing to discuss.