Undrafted college free agents are usually better in theory than they are in practice. For every Martin St. Louis, Torey Krug and Brian Rafalski there are endless Matt Gilroy’s and Matt O’Connor’s. But they are low-risk, high-reward moves since all they cost in money. Here are three potential free agent signings that we’ll be hearing more about in the coming weeks.
The 6-02 defender is far and away the most highly coveted free agent coming out of the NCAA this year and it’s easy to see why. A three-year veteran of the Minnesota State Mavericks program, Brickley has gone from being overlooked in his draft year to becoming a legitimate NHL prospect.
During his freshman year on campus, the Utah native competed in 36 contests, posting a pair of goals and dishing out nine helpers with his efforts being recognized with a nod to the WCHA All-Rookie team. At least one NHL team took notice of Brickley at this point as he attended the Buffalo Sabres development camp but came away without a contract in hand. In year number two he took a big step forward offensively lighting the lamp eight times and posted a team high 23 assists, leading the Mavericks d-men in scoring. He once again earned some accolades at season’s end as he was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, earned WHCA First All-Star team and Second All-American team honours. USA Hockey took notice and Brickley was selected to play for USA at the 2017 World Championships. It was a good litmus test as he was able to play with, and against, some elite level NHL players.
He toyed with the idea of turning pro at the end of his sophomore year but ultimately decided to return to Mankato and has been an absolute horse for the sixth ranked Mavericks this season. He’s set career highs across the board with 10 goals, 25 assists and 35 points and is tops among team defense in scoring, besting the next closest defensive member by 10 points. His sits fourth in the nation in defensive scoring and is tied for sixth in goals and fifth in assists
An all-around defender who gets up and down the ice well, Brickley has an excellent work ethic and insatiable desire to get better. While he has one year of eligibility remaining, word around the rink is that he could step into a top-four role right now. If that’s the case they’ll be no shortage of suitors for his services.
Look up at the top of the US collegiate scoring charts and you don’t have to go too far to find one of the top available free agent forwards, Princeton’s Max Veronneau. When you think Princeton, you think NHL hockey players. The school has produced such NHL luminaries as Jeff Halpern and, uh, well that’s about it. So maybe they don’t have a tradition of churning ‘em out. The Ottawa, ON native was not recruited until he was 19 when he was playing for the Gloucester Rangers of the CCHL. Spending the past three years in New Jersey has seen him evolve into an intriguing player.
During his freshman campaign of 2015-16, Veronneau played in 30 games for a terrible Princeton team that won only five games all season, but he found a measure of personal success