When the NCAA season was suddenly ended when the Frozen Four tournament was canceled, a whole other group of players became eligible for NHL contracts. The question during this league “pause” becomes how a contract would even be filed and whether a player could negotiate a deal that starts this season to burn the first year of entry-level status. Those uncertainties and many others make it very easy to understand any hesitation on the part of college players, meaning it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Rick Dhaliwal of TSN reported today that Jack Rathbone will take his time deciding whether or not to sign with the Vancouver Canucks.
Rathbone, 20, was a fourth-round pick in 2017 by the Canucks and has had two excellent seasons at Harvard. Registering 31 points in 28 games this season he was the highest-scoring defenseman on his team, ahead of lauded New Jersey Devils draft pick Reilly Walsh.
With Quinn Hughes making such an impact in his first season in the NHL, the Canucks’ defensive group already has huge upside for the next decade. Adding in players like Rathbone will only provide some depth behind that star power, especially if they happen to lose Chris Tanev in free agency.
To be sure, it would be hard to expect Rathbone stepping directly into the NHL. But after two excellent seasons at a top program like Harvard, he’d certainly be on a strong development path.