Welcome back to The Journey.
We are fast approaching the closing stretch of the season, which indicates exciting times – NCAA ELC signings for prospect enthusiasts. Drafted or free agent, prospects are signing their names on the dotted line and making that pivotal decision to make the transition into pro hockey as we speak.
So far, we have seen a good number of prospects sign, all ranging from elite to depth-chart helping hands. While the vast majority end up gaining reps in the minor system, every so often we see a pure player step right into the NHL, becoming fantasy relevant immediately.
While I do foresee the majority of this year's group to begin the year in the AHL, there are a few who could enjoy some NHL game time. Whether it's a few games, or an entire stint, as a fantasy owner, it's always encouraging to get a good glimpse before beheading into the off-season.
Here is this year's signed crop, thus far.
Cole Caufield, RW, Canadiens
Coming in fresh off a dominant sophomore campaign, Caufield is officially signed and ready to transition to the pro level. Through 31 games, the 20-year-old produced a nation-leading 30 goals and 52 points, a total that no Wisconsin Badger had hit since Derek Stepan in the 2009-10 campaign (54 points). Obviously, his efforts have awarded him a spot as a Hobey Baker finalist, a title which he is likely to win.
Treading along the middle of the pack with regards to goal-scoring, the Canadiens certainly hold players worthy of filling the net. However, none of which hold the trigger and pin-point accuracy that Caufield carries. He could fill in some (necessary) immediate secondary, or perhaps frontline, goal-scoring needs in order to propel them into a post-season run. Of course, with a few weeks remaining, the organization does have time to showcase him at the AHL level to assure he is ready for the task.
If his transition goes as smooth as I predict it to go, the 5-7 winger could be beating goaltenders at the NHL by the season's end. Even in semi-shallow fantasy formats, he could become relevant immediately.
David Farrance, D, Predators
As is the case for some NCAA skaters, Farrance elected to see out his entire four-year eligibility with the Boston University Terriers. Rightfully so, Predators fans were handed a sweat when he failed to sign an ELC last summer. Would he become the next Jimmy Vesey? It's always a possibility.
Ultimately, it worked out, and the team was able to commit him and sign him to his first NHL contract.
The 21-year-old defender brings a ton – and I mean a ton – of offensive upside. He shows great poise when transitioning the puck, and when his legs get going, his rushes are extremely impressive. Of course, he will learn in a short time that end-to-end runs are going to be a risky play at the pro level. The majorit