Skip to Main Content
NHL Draft

College free agents signing with NHL teams

Kiersted agrees with Panthers, Tufto to Lightning among early contracts

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer takes a look at some of the top college free agents who have not been selected in the NHL Draft and are free to sign with any NHL team once their season has ended. Because the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline has been pushed back to April 12, any player who signs with a team before that date is eligible to play for that team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NCAA conference playoffs begin this weekend and the 2021 Frozen Four is scheduled April 8 and 10 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Players listed alphabetically.

Josh Dunne, F, Clarkson; signed with Columbus Blue Jackets

The 22-year-old signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets on March 14. Dunne (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) scored five points (two goals, three assists) in 14 games as a junior after he missed the first month of the season because of an injury. A co-captain in his final college season, he can fill a bottom-six role in the NHL and is good on the penalty kill and relentless on the forecheck. He scored 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 32 games in 2019-20, and has attended development camps with the Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues.

Parker Ford, F, Providence

The sophomore has scored 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) and six power-play points (two goals, four assists) in 23 games. Ford (5-9, 185) has won 57.2 percent of his face-offs and leads Hockey East with 270 face-off wins. The 20-year-old right-hand shot stands out for his intelligence and solid work ethic.

Mike Hardman, F, Boston College; agreed to terms with Chicago Blackhawks

The 22-year-old agreed to terms on a two-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks on March 30. Hardman (6-2, 198) scored 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 24 games this season for Boston College, which was Hockey East regular-season champion in each of his two seasons with them. He can play on the power play, has good hands, and is not afraid to go to the tough areas of the ice to hunt for loose pucks.

Akito Hirose, D, Minnesota State

Hirose is an intelligent and skilled offensive-minded defenseman. The 21-year-old left-handed shot (6-0, 170) has scored 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) and is plus-16 in 22 games as a freshman with No. 3-ranked Minnesota State. Hirose has played a big role in helping Minnesota State allow 1.45 goals per game, fewest in NCAA Division I. He is the younger brother of Detroit Red Wings forward Taro Hirose.

Jordan Kawaguchi, F, North Dakota; signed with Dallas Stars

The 23-year-old signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars on March 31. An All-National Collegiate Hockey Conference First Team pick, Kawaguchi (5-9, 188) returned for his senior season and was third in the NCAA with 26 assists and fourth with 36 points in 28 games. He is a finalist for the 2021 Hobey Baker Award after being a finalist in 2020. The 23-year-old captain has a pass-first mentality, can set up linemates for one-timers and is difficult to knock off the puck on the cycle. He holds a North Dakota career record with five overtime goals.

Matt Kiersted, D, North Dakota

Kiersted (6-0, 175) agreed to terms on a two-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers on April 1. The All-NCHC First Team selection was tied for second among conference defensemen with 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) and was fourth among all players in the conference with 44 blocked shots in 24 games. The 22-year-old senior, who is an alternate captain for the second straight season, scored 11 of his 19 points on the power play and helped North Dakota allow a conference-low 1.96 goals per game.

Strauss Mann, G, Michigan

Michigan coach Mel Pearson compared the junior goalie to former NHL goalie and Michigan standout Marty Turco because of Mann's puck-handling ability and poise. Mann (6-0, 175), a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the top NCAA Division I goalie, is 10-8 with one tie, a 1.95 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts in 19 games. In 73 NCAA games in three seasons at Michigan, the 22-year-old has a 2.15 GAA, a .925 save percentage and 10 shutouts.

Marc McLaughlin, F, Boston College

The 21-year-old junior (6-0, 205) is second on Boston College with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 21 games. McLaughlin leads Hockey East with five game-winning goals and is tied with teammate Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) for the lead with three shorthanded goals. McLaughlin, Boston College's captain, also has won 51.4 percent of his face-offs.

Ty Pelton-Byce, F, Wisconsin

The 23-year-old senior (6-2, 195) has scored 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in 21 games. He has been centering Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens), the NCAA leader in goals (28) and points (43), and Linus Weissbach (Buffalo Sabres), who is second for Wisconsin with 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists), for most of the season so NHL clubs know can play, and excel, alongside top-level talent. Pelton-Byce leads Wisconsin with a 25.0 percent shooting percentage, and his seven power-play goals are second to Caufield's nine.

Chayse Primeau, F, Nebraska-Omaha

Primeau (6-3, 185), a 23-year-old junior, leads Nebraska-Omaha with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 24 games. He has the size, skill and hockey sense to play in the NHL, and has proven to be effective as a net-front presence for redirections and tips. His father, Keith Primeau, played 909 NHL games, and his brother, Cayden Primeau, is a Montreal Canadiens goalie prospect.

Brandon Scanlin, D, Nebraska-Omaha

Scanlin (6-4, 213) leads Nebraska-Omaha defensemen with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 22 games. The sophomore left-handed shot was named an honorable mention on the All-NCHC Team, possesses impressive size and is a top option on the power play.

Adam Scheel, G, North Dakota

The junior (6-3, 190), a finalist for the Mike Richter Award, was named NCHC goalie of the year after leading the conference in wins (16), GAA (1.80) and shutouts (four), and his .929 save percentage was second. Scheel's 2.00 GAA in three seasons at North Dakota is the best in school history, and his 48 wins are 10th. Scouts like Scheel's positioning and his ability to play the puck with confidence and effectiveness outside his crease.

Odeen Tufto, F, Quinnipiac; signed with Tampa Bay Lightning

The 24-year-old signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 31. The captain for Quinnipiac (5-7, 175) led NCAA Division I players in assists with 39, was second in points (47) and third with 379 face-off wins in 29 games. Tufto is a finalist for the 2021 Hobey Baker Award and was named ECAC Player of the Year. He has great vision and has scored at least 38 points in each of his four college seasons, and is Quinnipiac's all-time leader in assists (129) and is second in points (168) since the program moved to Division I in 1998.

View More