While everyone has been hyper focused on the impending free agency of Jimmy Vesey, it seems as though another impact college player is set to become a free agent as well on August 15th. Craig Custance reports today that 2012 Washington Capitals fourth rounder Thomas Di Pauli will not sign with the team before the deadline and will become an unrestricted free agent, capable of signing an entry-level contract with any team in the league.
Di Pauli, a small but sure-handed forward from the University of Notre Dame will try his luck at finding the best fit for his set of skills, and as Craig Custance reports, that could end up being the Capitals. Talks have been on-going, but they will likely not reach a timely conclusion. It is possible that the Capitals fast-paced, skilled style is not a fit for Di Pauli though, who is known more for his two-way ability and hard-working, high-energy approach. He did start to find his offensive game in his senior year though, scoring 32 points in 37 games playing alongside highly-touted Bruins prospect Anders Bjork. Di Pauli is also a talented face-off man, though he can play both center and wing.
Di Pauli’s case will definitely not get the attention of Vesey’s, who is expected to jump in and be an impact player right away at the NHL level. However, Di Pauli does have the potential to draw similar attention to defenseman Mike Reilly, who last summer spurned the Columbus Blue Jackets for free agency, drew plenty of attention before signing with the Minnesota Wild, but then only played in 29 games and scored only seven points. Reilly was recruited not for his immediate ability, but for his potential. He is expected to have a greater role for the Wild in 2016-17. Similarly, Di Pauli may not be ready to adjust from the NCAA to the NHL right away, but his solid two-way game, hockey sense, and hard-working attitude will be attractive to many teams lacking energy line depth or face-off ability down the middle. If his offensive game continues to develop at the AHL level, he could see the NHL this season and could turn into a reliable bottom-nine player.