As the next round of NCAA conference tournaments get underway tonight, the stars of those college squads already eliminated from postseason contention continue to find new homes in the pros. To date, 17 undrafted free agents out of Division I have signed their first pro deal, not including tryout offers. While the majority have been with ECHL clubs, after the flurry of activity in the past 24 hours there have been four players to ink AHL contracts and six to sign NHL entry-level deals. While the big league contracts garner the most attention, there is a fair bit of intrigue with minor league deals as well. The decisions to sign free agents to minor league contracts or tryouts often comes from the top, with the NHL parent club having interest in seeing how those players can develop. Oftentimes college free agents will even sign one-year deals for the remainder of the season in hopes of proving themselves worthy of a better contract in the coming off-season. So while the minor league deals may not seem as exciting, don’t sleep on their potential meaning.
- Kurt Gosselin, four-year mainstay on the blue line for the enigmatic University of Alabama – Hunstsville, is headed to the pros. The AHL’s Rochester Americans announced that they have signed Gosselin to a one-year, two-way AHL contract for next season and that he will play out the rest of the season on an amateur tryout with their ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones. Gosselin, 24, plays a mature, well-rounded game on the back end. He has led all Chargers defensemen in scoring in each of the past two seasons, posting a career-high in per-game production this year with 15 points in 25 games. He also led the team in assists and plus/minus this season. At 6’1″, 201 lbs., Gosselin can hold his own in the checking game as well. Gosselin earned recognition for his solid defensive game and offensive contributions by being named the first ever all-conference selection out of Alabama-Huntsville in 2016-17. An accomplished collegiate defenseman, the Americans hope that he can adjust to the pro level and play a valuable role for them next season. The Buffalo Sabres will undoubtedly keep an eye on him as well.
- While Gosselin moves from Alabama to upstate New York next season, the top player from Canisius College in Buffalo will make his way to Illinois. Dylan McLaughlin, a top-ten goal scorer in the NCAA this year, has signed a two-year AHL contract with the Rockford Ice Hogs, per a team release. McLaughlin, 23, was Hobey Baker candidate last season when he posted 48 points in 37 games for the Golden Griffins. While his point total fell to 40 this year, he tallied two more goals for 19 on the year and further asserted himself as a natural scorer. A top-ten pick in the USHL Draft in 2011, McLaughlin’s offensive ability has always been apparent and now the next step will be to take the game that he has polished over four years at Canisius and adapt it to the AHL. The Chicago Blackhawks have been known to get the most out of players with strong offensive instincts and should have a keen interest in McLaughlin’s development in Rockford.
- The Atlantic Hockey Conference may be the weakest in the NCAA and Canisius finished dead last in their standings this season, but that hasn’t stopped several pro teams from jumping at their top players. Following an early exit from the conference tournament, McLaughlin signed in the AHL and defensemen Ian Edmondson and Jimmy Mazza were right behind him with ECHL deals. Mazza, 24, has signed with the Reading Royals for the remainder of the season. Mazza led all Golden Griffins defenders with a career-high 24 points this season. Mazza has good size and awareness and will look to show down the stretch and in the ECHL postseason that he is perhaps worthy of an AHL deal next season. Edmondson, 24, has signed for the rest of the season as well, but with the Wichita Thunder. Less of an offensive threat than Mazza, but a dependable defender for four seasons with Canisius, Edmondson will be a nice option on the back end in the ECHL. While obviously a function of some of the lesser teams in college hockey having their seasons end first, no one could have expected that at any point in the college free agent market that Ferris State University and Canisius College would lead the way in pro signings, but such is the case so far.