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NHL Notebook: San Jose Sharks sign top NCAA free agent Collin Graf and Alexis Lafreniere is peaking at the right time for the Rangers

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Photo credit:Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
The San Jose Sharks have landed the top NCAA free agent, signing Quinnipiac forward Collin Graf to an entry-level contract.
The 21-year-old right-shot just finished his third season playing NCAA hockey with his final two coming with the Bobcats. In those years, he racked up 42 goals, 65 assists and 108 points across 75 games.
“Graf has excelled at the collegiate level, finishing as a Hobey Baker Top-10 finalist for the last two seasons,” Sharks GM Mike Grier said in a statement. “His on-ice awareness allows him to process the game at a high level, and is a unique player with a quality 200-foot game who excells in the offensive zone. We are excited to have him join the organization.”
Here’s more on Graf, from Daily Faceoff prospect guru Steven Ellis:
Graf is a two-time Hobey Baker top 10 finalist, although he wasn’t named to the final three in each year. Graf almost turned pro with quite a bit of NHL interest last season, but elected to return to college to try and help Quinnipiac repeat as national champions.
It wasn’t until the switch to Quinnipiac in 2022-23 that Graf started to establish himself as a player with real pro potential. The Lincoln, MA. native stands at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds. He has the size to win puck battles, but he’s not out there throwing the body just for the sake of hitting people. Graf had just eight PIM over the last two seasons and 18 over his entire college career while still improving his overall physical game.

Lafreniere finds his stride

The NHL hasn’t been the kindest to 2020 1st overall pick Alexis Lafreniere.
After debuting as a 19-year-old in 2020-21, his first three years saw marginal improvements as his point totals went from 21 in 56 games, to 31 in 79 games, and up to 49 in 81 games last year. Those improvements earned him a two-year bridge deal worth $2.35 million.
A recent hot run of eight goals and 15 points in his last 11 games have brought his season totals all to career highs, with 26 goals, 28 assists and 54 points in 76 games this season.
And for a Rangers team hoping to go on a run this spring, Daily Faceoff’s Tyler Yaremchuk and Frank Seravalli talked about how high Lafreniere’s ceiling could be.
Tyler Yaremchuk: One guy who stood out in Wednesday’s game between the Rangers and Devils was Alex Lafreniere. Johnny Lazarus of Morning Cuppa Hockey often says that Lafreniere will be a 100-point player. It won’t happen this year, but he’s inching his way to the 60-point mark this season. As this year’s gone on, he’s continued to show a lot of improvement. His points-per-game is 0.71, but since Feb. 1, it’s 0.98.
He’s continued to look better and better, and he’s an important part of this Rangers’ forward group going into the playoffs.
Frank Seravalli: He is and I love the slow burn that he’s built his career. He’s been written off, counted out and quietly done the work. It’s come in fits and starts, he’s had moments where you’ve seen the flash. There’s been a sticktoitiveness where he’s confident that he can be a significant player in this league.
It’s taken a while to get to this point. It’s difficult when we see Connor Bedard and Auston Matthews and all these No. 1 overall picks light the league on fire. Just because you were taken first overall, it doesn’t mean you have the ability to translate your game to the NHL. One of the biggest things when watching him is, obviously he has the skill, but he doesn’t skate as fast as those other players. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good player, and I think it’s premature that we started to call him a bust.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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