NHL prepares for U.S. college free agents | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNHL prepares for U.S. college free agents

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 | 06:00 AM

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Western Michigan defenceman Dan DeKeyser is considered one of the top free agents in U.S. college hockey this season. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press) Western Michigan defenceman Dan DeKeyser is considered one of the top free agents in U.S. college hockey this season. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

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This year's class of U.S. college hockey free agents is not considered as deep as the past few years. But there are two players common on most teams' scouting list in Western Michigan defenceman Dan DeKeyser and Nebraska-Omaha blue-liner Andrej Sustr.

The United States college hockey scene will raise the curtain on its post-season this weekend.

That means there will be a flurry of activity as NHL teams maneouvre to beef up the depth of their organizations with an unrestricted free-agent college player or two over the next few weeks.

This year's class is not considered as deep as the past few years. There simply isn't that true-blue chipper like Justin Schultz, who became a free agent thanks to a loophole in the old collective agreement four years after the Anaheim Ducks drafted him.

But there are two players common on most scouting lists in Western Michigan defenceman Dan DeKeyser and Nebraska-Omaha blue-liner Andrej Sustr.

That could change if Colorado College's Alex Krushelnyski, the 22-year-old son of former NHLer Mike Krushelnyski, decides not to return for his senior year. Ditto for 23-year-old Wisconsin junior forward Mark Zengerle, who attended a prospects camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer.

If they decide to turn pro, all of a sudden a couple more desirables have jumped into the U.S. college free-agent pool.

Until then, here is our list of U.S. College players likely to sign in the weeks to come, according to three NHL scouts we conferred with.

Top 5

Dan DeKeyser

Third-year D, Western Michigan

Age: 23. Height: 6-3. Weight: 198. 

Hometown: Clay Township, Mich.

The skinny: Many thought DeKeyser was going to sign with the Detroit Red Wings last year, but then he decided to return to school for another year ... He played youth hockey with Trevor Nill, son of Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill ... He'll have interest from 20 or more teams and, like Schultz did last year, DeKeyser will listen to all interested parties before he determines his best opportunity ... He has size, can move the puck and plays a safe, intelligent game.

Andrej Sustr

Third-year D, Nebraska-Omaha

Age: 22. Height: 6-8. Weight: 225. 

Hometown: Plzen, Czech Rep.

The skinny: He has Zdeno Chara-type size, but is considered a project ... Came over to North America in 2009 to play for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL and also suited up for the Czech Republic at the 2010 world junior ... His offensive stats have improved every year at Nebraska-Omaha ... He attended prospect camps for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning last summer ... Plenty of NHL teams will be in the mix this time around.

Rylan Schwartz

Fourth-year F, Colorado College

Age: 23. Height: 5-10. Weight: 205. 

Hometown: Wilcox, Sask.

The skinny: He's the older brother of St. Louis Blues 20-year-old rookie Jaden Schwartz ... Whispers a year go had the Blues and Calgary Flames interested in signing Rylan, but he decided to return for his senior season ... He attended prospects camps in St. Louis and with the San Jose Sharks last summer ... Without his brother for the first time in two seasons, Rylan already has checked in with a career-high 42 points in 33 games this year ... Although last season, he scored 23 goals in 35 games, he's more of a playmaker than goal scorer.

Antoine Laganiere

Fourth-year F, Yale

Age: 22. Height: 6-4. Weight: 215.

Hometown: Ile-Cadieux, Que.

The skinny: Plenty of NHL scouts have visited Yale's Ingalls Rink this season and have come away impressed with his "pro-type body" and how much his skating has improved during his time at Yale... He attended prospect camps for the Edmonton Oilers and Penguins last summer and with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 ... He helped the Chateauguay Patriots Midget AAA win the 2005-06 provincial Quebec title and the Patriots finished third at the Telus Cup national championship.

Ryan Walters

Third-year F, Nebraska-Omaha

Age: 21. Height: 6-0. Weight: 196.

Hometown: Rosemount, Minn.

The skinny: He is a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented to the top player in NCAA hockey ... He has scored as many goals (21) and more points (49) this season than his first two years of U.S. college hockey combined ... He credits his vast improvement to a new off-season training regimen in the gym and on-ice sessions with a skating coach ... He is considered an intelligent player who performs well in all three zones of the rink.

Best of the rest

Greg Carey

Third-year F, St. Lawrence

Age: 22. Height: 5-11. Weight: 195.

Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.

Eric Hartzell

Fourth-year G, Quinnipiac

Age: 23. Height: 6-4. Weight: 188.

Hometown: White Bear Lake, Minn. 

Eriah Hayes

Fourth-year F, Minnesota St.

Age: 24. Height: 6-3. Weight: 210.

Hometown: La Cresent, Minn.

Giancarlo Iuorio

Fourth-year F, Niagara University

Age: 24. Height: 5-11. Weight: 180.

Hometown: Richmond Hill, Ont.

Jeremy Langlois

Fourth-year F, Quinnipiac

Age: 22. Height: 6-0. Weight: 173.

Hometown: Tempe, Ariz.

Drew Leblanc

Fourth-year F, St. Cloud State

Age: 23. Height: 6-0. Weight: 185.

Hometown: Hermantown, Minn.

Pat Mullane

Fourth-year F, Boston College

Age: 22. Height: 5-11. Weight: 190.

Hometown: Willingford, Conn.

Clarke Saunders

Third-year G, North Dakota

Age: 23. Height: 6-3. Weight: 190.

Hometown: Brockville, Ont.

Nate Schmidt

Third-year D, Minnesota

Age: 21. Height: 5-11. Weight: 199.

Hometown: St. Cloud, Minn.

Shayne Taker

Third-year D, Notre Dame

Age: 23. Height: 6-3. Weight: 190.

Hometown: Surrey, B.C.

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Second-year D, New Hampshire

Age: 21. Height: 6-2. Weight: 185.

Hometown: Middletown, N.J. 

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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