Last year it was Matt Gilroy, Tyler Bozak and Chris Hanson who were the hotly sought after collegian free agents, both ended up signing on with Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs. This year there are a few players of note although I really haven't heard names being tossed around quite the same way as we did last year with Bozak and Gilroy.
I started making my list and found that all, other than 6'3 Mike Testwuide from Colorado College, were under 6'. Therefore, all of them might be considered longshots for the NHL but does that preclude them from earning a pro contract from a NHL club? I think not.
I've made a list of some of the guys I'd be looking at, they might not be players that NHL teams are following as closely as I am though. This is just a list of five guys who have peaked my interest and have me wondering if they might be on the radar for a NHL club too. And they are all under 6 feet tall.
5. Justin Fontaine (RW) Minn.Duluth Bulldogs
The Bonnyville, Alberta product spent a little more than two season in the AJHL with his hometown Pontiacs before moving on to the NCAA. His first year with the Bulldogs was not memorable, only 12 points the entire year after a 71-point campaign the year previous in Bonnyville. However, he racked up 15 goals and 48 points as a sophomore and currently checks in with 36 in 29 games as a junior. Duluth lists him at 5'11 and 175 lbs which, although not big by any means, isn't unheard of at the NHL level. If he's not signed this spring I'm sure he'll be a very high on the radar next year as a senior... and that might make it more realistic that Fontaine puts any offers on hold until then. (Photo: Howiehanson.com)
4. Ryan Lasch (F) St. Cloud State Huskies
He finished third on his team in scoring as a freshman with 39 points in 40 games. Ahead of him were Andreas Nodl, a 2nd round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Andrew Gordon who was drafted by Washington. Lasch is listed 5'8 and 165 lbs but I've seen other sources that peg him at 5'7 and 5'9. Regardless, he's small but clearly skilled and that actually reminds me of former Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan. Duncan put up big numbers at North Dakota and is now doing the same as a pro... in Germany. With season totals of 39, 53 and 42 points already plus the 35 he has compiled so far this year, Lasch has to be on someone's radar doesn't he? (Photo: cstv.com)
3. James Marcou (F) Massachusetts Minutemen
For much of this season James Marcou has been leading the NCAA in scoring but right now he's slipped to 5th with 42 points, 4 back of the lead. I first watched Marcou at the Viking Cup while I was doing a profile on him for ISS. Boy was he small; maybe 5'5 at the time. Now he's listed by UMass as 5'8 and 165 lbs, practically hulking by comparison. Like the others on this list, Marcou has been an offensive dynamo at the NCAA level scoring 32 points as a freshman and following it up with 47 last year. He's clearly the go-to guy on his team and the fact that he still continues to produce when the opposition as to be focusing on him, that's impressive. The New York native has another year to go before graduation so he might put off signing until next year, or he might not want to tempt fate and take any offer that comes his way this Spring. (Photo: Dennis Pause)
2. Carter Camper (F) Miami RedHawks
Anybody that stops by Coming Down the Pipe with any regularity knows that mentioning Carter Camper has been a pet project of mine for a couple years now. For the life of me I can't figure out why he's not already signed - yes he's small but everyone I've talked to agrees that except for the age difference, there isn't much difference between Camper and a 1st round pick like Jordan Schroeder. He's quick, he's smart, he can set up or finish off plays... and he's on his way to another 40-point season. Honestly, if someone out there can tell me why Carter Camper is still a free agent (if not by his own choice) please explain it to me in the comments section. He was a guest on TPS last August and we discussed his perspective then. (Photo: http://muredhawkshockey.blogspot.com/)
1. Stephane Da Costa (F) Merrimack Warriors
Born in France, a year in the NAHL followed by two more in the USHL and now Da Costa is piling up the points in the NCAA. The Frenchman's biggest flaw might be that he comes from a non-traditional hockey country because if this guy was from Saskatchewan, I'm pretty sure he'd have been scooped up by now. Of course if he was from Saskatchewan he probably would have played in the WHL or at least in a more visible league during his draft year so that has to be taken into account as well. Da Costa leads Merrimack in scoring with 36 points but it should be pointed out that he's also a 20-year-old freshman, he turns 21 this summer. For the record, Da Costa is listed at just under 6'... 5'11 and 180 lbs. He's too old to be drafted so if a team wants to get him now it'll have to be as a free agent signing and I know of at least one team that has some degree of interest. (Photo: Merrimack Athletics)
Know of anyone else that sould be on this list? Let me know!