Every year there seems to be a crop of college free agents who went undrafted whom NHL teams chase. Some of these players go on to be superstars (Marty St. Louis, Tim Thomas, etc.) while a lot of these players end up being middling AHL players. It is absolutely worth the risk to sign a high profile college free agent. A team gives up nothing and is sometimes rewarded with an NHL player.
This year, the Vancouver Canucks should be in the hunt for various college free agents. The cream of the crop seems to be Matt O’Connor, goalie for Boston University. While he is a long shot to land with the Canucks given their extensive goalie depth, it would be wise for Jim Benning to join the hunt for O’Connor. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that upwards of 16 teams are interested in O’Connor and I would be surprised if the Canucks are not among those teams. However, if the ‘Nucks do miss out on O’Connor, which is likely, there are many other free agents who the team should pursue.
Casey Bailey, F, Penn State
Bailey had flown under the radar during his first two seasons at Penn State but he has blown the roof off in his third season. Bailey has 40 points through 35 games and plays both center and wing for Penn State’s top line. He’s huge (6’3") and plays a power forward game.
Troy Stecher, D, North Dakota
Stecher is a pure offensive defenseman who also plays smart in his own zone. He is a prototypical power play quarterback, something the Canucks could definitely use. While he is small, he uses his instincts to play a bigger game. He reminds scouts of Dan Boyle, who, coincidentally, was another undrafted free agent.
Hampus Gustafsson, F, Merrimack
Gustafsson is a Swede who is as huge as his last name is long. Standing at 6-4, Gustafsson weighs in at 205 and model his game after Rick Nash. While he is by no means the next Rick Nash, he is an intriguing prospect. He would add some size to the Canucks prospect pool and has the skill to go with his size. He has put up 25 points through 38 games in a very competitive league.