At the collegiate level, there are times when a player bursts onto the scene without a ton of prior hype. Sometimes it can even lead to the attention of NHL scouts or even an NHL entry-level contract. It appears that’s the case with Clay Stevenson, a goaltender from Dartmouth College who may end up earning a deal in the coming weeks.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet writes that NHL teams are already making pitches to the undrafted free agent, whose final regular season game is this weekend. Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV goes a step further, reporting that the Vancouver Canucks have an interest in the Chilliwack, British Columbia native.
Perhaps burst onto the scene is a bit hyperbolic in Stevenson’s case, given how well he played in the BCHL before leaving for college. For the Coquitlam Express in 2019-20, the big goaltender posted a 30-2-2 record with a .936 save percentage, taking home the BCHL Top Goaltender award but missing a chance to win the Fred Page Cup after the league was shut down because of COVID-19 concerns. It was COVID issues that stole what would have been Stevenson’s regular freshman season in 2020-21 as well when Dartmouth and the other Ivy League hockey programs decided not to play.
The NCAA ruled that he would not lose a season of eligibility though, so this year is technically an impressive freshman campaign for the 22-year-old, even on a team without much success. His record is just 5-10-2 on the year, but Stevenson has produced a .925 save percentage as the primary starter. He’s even posted a pair of shutouts, two of the program’s six total wins. One of those came just a few days ago against Princeton, likely piquing the interest of scouts even further as the Dartmouth season comes to an end.
On March 1, teams will be eligible to sign entry-level contracts that begin in the 2022-23 season. It will be interesting to see whether or not Stevenson goes that route and then inks an amateur tryout to join a minor league club for the stretch run, as he’ll be limited to a two-year entry-level contract either way because of his age. A bargaining chip some teams may use to try and secure his services is having an ELC start for 2021-22, allowing him to enter the professional ranks right away and reach restricted free agency a little earlier.