This is regarded as no better than an average year for college free agents playing in New England.
In good years and bad, NHL teams invest a significant amount of time and money scouring the NCAA ranks, from Maine to Arizona State and everywhere in between, for undrafted players deserving of an NHL or AHL contract.
They are, obviously, looking first and foremost for players who can help the NHL club at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. But scouts also are on the lookout for players who can provide organizational depth or fill a particular positional need.
Realistically, it’s nearly impossible to find a college free agent who can make an immediate impact at the NHL level. It just doesn’t happen.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players available.
Sprinkled around the NHL are notable free agents who are natives of New England and played college hockey here.
After putting in time in the AHL, Garnet Hathaway (Kennebunkport, Maine) of Brown and the Boston Bruins and Noel Acciari (Johnston, R.I.) of Providence College and the Toronto Maple Leafs have established themselves as the type of bottom-six forwards that NHL teams covet.
Conor Sheary (Melrose, Mass.) of the Washington Capitals, who played four years at UMass, was a valuable contributor for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup teams in 2016 and 2017, but not before serving an apprenticeship in the AHL.
Then there’s the University of New Hampshire’s Trevor van Riemsdyk, now with the Washington Capitals. He played only eight AHL games in 2015 before joining the Chicago Blackhawks and winning a Stanley Cup ring. He’s been in the NHL ever since.
But he’s an outlier.
The prize of last season’s free agent class in New England was Bobby Trivigno. MVP of the Frozen Four for national champ UMass in 2021, he was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as a senior. In April he signed an NHL contract with the New York Rangers.
He was 12th in scoring for the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, with seven goals and 23 points in 50 games. If he’s going to make it to the NHL — and don’t bet against him — it’s going to take time.
So keep that in mind when mulling over this year’s crop. There are good players, but no difference-makers.
Here’s a look at 15 New England college players who could soon make an impact in the NHL: