With the Frozen Four tournament on the horizon, there should be some activity on the college free agent front in the coming weeks. At this time of year, college free agents are rarely coming in as impact prospects with high NHL ceilings (and this year is no exception) but it’s an opportunity for teams to add some depth pieces that are further along in their development compared to players coming out of major junior.
Here is an overview of some of the goalies that could be drawing NHL interest in the near future. Note that not all of these players will sign entry-level contracts as some will ultimately elect to return to college for another season (or more) while quite a few others not on this list will sign NHL or AHL deals in the coming weeks. This pool of players isn’t as deep as the skaters but there should be a few netminders at least who will put pen to paper on a contract. The forward preview can be found here while the defense preview is here.
Cooper Black, Dartmouth
It’s probably a bit early for Black to be on this list, especially since he’s coming off only his freshman season, one that didn’t exactly go too well with just five wins and a .899 SV% in 30 appearances. However, the 21-year-old is listed at 6’8 and that might be on the small side. That type of size should be enticing enough for some teams to kick the tires on him this season although the smarter move for him is probably to stay for at least one more year.
Ryan Bischel, Notre Dame
His senior season was a strong one, posting a .931 SV% for the Fighting Irish which was good for second in Division I behind only Devon Levi, a Buffalo prospect. This was Bischel’s only season as a true starter so he doesn’t quite have the full track record that some other free agent netminders have but he’ll be 24 in July and going back for the bonus season likely doesn’t make sense. He’s a bit undersized for the position at 6’1 so it’s possible that he might have to settle for an AHL deal to start.
Gustavs Davis-Grigals, UMass-Lowell
Davis-Grigals opted to transfer from Alaska-Fairbanks before this season and the move worked out well for him as he put up better numbers (a 2.05 GAA and a .924 SV%) with the River Hawks in a stronger program. The 24-year-old also has some international experience with his native Latvia. An NHL contract might be difficult to come by but there should be some interest in him on a minor league deal.
Victor Ostman, Maine
The decision for Ostman to come to North America back in 2019 has worked out well as one good USHL season and three quality college seasons later, the 22-year-old sits at the top of the class at his position. He posted a .918 SV% in 33 games this year with the Black Bears along with five shutouts and at 6’4, he has the size that teams covet. Will Ostman become the next to come from what has been a bit of a goalie factory in Maine that has also graduated Jimmy Howard, Ben Bishop, and Jeremy Swayman over the last two decades?
Luke Pavicich, UMass
Pavicich just completed his sophomore season and his first as a starter after getting into just four games in his freshman year. The 20-year-old did well in his expanded role, putting up a .920 SV% despite the Minutemen having a losing record. Again, this might be a bit early for him as his entry-level deal would be three years but an NHL team might want to get him into their system now over running the risk of Pavicich improving his market a year from now.
T.J. Semptimphelter, Arizona State
Another netminder who opted to use the transfer portal last offseason, Semptimphelter opted to leave a strong situation with Northeastern (who had Levi between the pipes) in search of more playing time. He found that with the Sun Devils, getting into all but three games this season while posting a respectable .913 SV%. Semptimphelter doesn’t turn 21 until May and again, this might be a year early for him unless there’s a team that’s convinced of his upside and is okay with a long development curve in the minors.
Others To Watch For
These three goalies all had stellar showings this season with save percentages in the top five in Division I. So why are they listed here as a group? They’re all on the smaller side. There are very few small goalies in the NHL and netminders that are small in stature typically wind up with a minor league deal to start. Perets and Pietila are Hobey Baker Award finalists but as we saw with last year’s winner in Dryden McKay, even that isn’t automatically enough to earn an entry-level deal. Will one buck the trend and land an NHL agreement?