While we have to way until July to get any free agent action among NHL players, the college season will be ending a little sooner. The end of the line for the best NCAA players means a feeding frenzy for NHL organizations, who will be snapping up talent in the hopes that they can step directly into the professional ranks. With that in mind, Frank Seravalli of TSN breaks down five names who are on the radar.
The top name as expected for most of the season is Connor Mackey, who has drawn plenty of speculation over the years. Seravalli reports that 28 of the league’s 31 teams have shown interest in Mackey, including nine that apparently are willing to sign him to an NHL contract this season—allowing him to burn the first year of the entry-level deal he will be restricted to. Remember, to do that the team must have an empty slot under their 50-contract limit, something that the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning currently do not.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs, who will surely be one of the team showing interest in the college defenseman, are getting back one of their own blueliners. Cody Ceci has been activated from injured reserve, adding some more experience to a group that has very little at the moment. The Maple Leafs have been forced to play Travis Dermott, Rasmus Sandin, Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren and Calle Rosen all at the same time, a quintet that has 291 games of NHL experience between them. Ceci, for all his faults, has played in 494.
- Speaking of college defensemen, the St. Louis Blues are monitoring one of their own draft picks very closely in Scott Perunovich, who is having another outstanding season for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic (subscription required) examines the situation and exactly what options Perunovich will have after his year is done. Rutherford points out that there may not be a ton of opportunity right away in St. Louis, which has many speculating about whether the dynamic defenseman will try to find a different destination to start his professional career.