The NCAA free agent market is about to open up. College teams are wrapping up their regular seasons this weekend and conference tournaments will follow soon after. For those teams facing an uphill battle to win an automatic bid and unlikely to claim an at-large bid, seasons could be over in a week or two.
One player facing down that scenario is Notre Dame forward Alex Steeves. The Fighting Irish currently sit in fourth-place in the Big Ten Conference and would have to battle through 2020-21 powerhouses Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to win their conference tournament. They are also not a top-20 nationally ranked team and sit well outside the 13/14 spot usually awarded to the final at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. Barring a miraculous turn, Steeves and Notre Dame will likely be done for the year in short order.
Except, Steeves likely won’t be done for the year. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Steeves is the hottest name among undrafted college free agents this year and could be scooped up quickly and signed to an NHL contract that begins this season. Steeves, 21, is only a junior at Notre Dame and has NCAA eligibility remaining, but will likely opt out in favor of the pros after a career year. The skilled forward has recorded 14 goals and 29 points in 27 games this season, one more point than he accrued in 36 games last year. Steeves is hardly the only player scoring at more than a point-per-game pace in the NCAA this season, but he is tied for sixth in goal scoring and is doing so for an Irish team that has not played up to expectations this year.
While Dreger does not mention any specific suitors for Steeves’ services, the New Hampshire native will be linked to the Boston Bruins – as are all New England natives seemingly – as well as the Chicago Blackhawks, located right across the lake from South Bend, Indiana and the owners of Steeves’ linemate, Landon Slaggert. Steeves also played alongside Notre Dame prospects belonging to the Ducks, Flames, Avalanche, Predators, Devils, and Islanders, all of whom have surely witnessed plenty of the forward’s ability this season. Many of the NHL’s rebuilding club are not among this list either but will offer the most immediate opportunity to the collegiate star. It’s understandable why Dreger describes there as being a robust market for Steeves given the vast number of potential landing spots.