Sprinkled across the NHL landscape are late-blooming impact players like Torey Krug, Tyler Bozak, Justin Schultz, Danny DeKeyser and goalie Cam Talbot.
What do members of this group have in common? They were all signed as free agents out of the United States college scene.
The annual U.S. college free-agent season is upon us. Lake Superior State defenceman Kevin Czuczman of Port Elgin, Ont., became the first to jump when he signed a two-year, $2.7-million US contract with the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
With the exception of UMass-Lowell defenceman Christian Folin, this is considered a thin class of U.S. college free agents. Folin and his No. 8-ranked team begin their best-of-three playoff series against No. 15 Vermont on Friday.
Here's a glance at this spring's U.S. college free-agent class:
Second-year D, UMass-Lowell
Age: 23. Height: 6-3. Weight: 210.
Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden
The skinny: His father, Martin, played professional soccer in Sweden ... 20 to 25 teams will be interested in the younger Folin ... Plays with an edge and has good size.
Fourth-year D, St. Lawrence
Age: 23. Height: 5-11. Weight: 195.
Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.
The skinny: Set an OJHL goal-scoring record with 72 goals in 48 games for the 2009-10 Burlington Cougars ... Has attended NHL summer prospect camps with Dallas and Toronto ... Younger brother Matt, 22, is in his first season with St. Lawrence and has scored an impressive 18 goals in 36 games.
Third-year F, Bowling Green
Age: 23. Height: 6-1. Weight: 180.
Hometown: Oviedo, Fla.
The skinny: Wrist and foot injuries have limited him to only 12 games this season ... Began playing roller hockey in Florida before he moved to Michigan in his sophomore year of high school ... Attended the 2013 Bruins summer prospects camp.
Third-year G, St. Cloud St.
Age: 23. Height: 6-2. Weight: 205.
Hometown: Fort Frances, Ont.
The skinny: Candidate for the inaugural Mike Richter Award, which will be presented to the most outstanding goalie in U.S. college hockey ... Helped St. Cloud State reach its first Frozen Four last year ... Has attended prospect camps with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins the past two summers.
Third-year F, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Age: 21. Height: 6-0. Weight: 190.
Hometown: Stamford, Conn.
The skinny: Chicago Blackhawks have shown interest in him ... Scored 13 goals in his first 10 games this season and now has 28 in 35 outings ... His father, Roger, spent eight years in the Boston Red Sox system.
Fourth-year LW, Colorado College
Age: 23. Height: 5-11. Weight: 173.
Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The skinny: Son of former NHLer Mike Krushelnyski ... Enjoyed a breakout season last year with 15 goals in 43 games, but decided to stay in school to earn his economics degree ... Scored his 100th career point for Colorado College earlier this month.
Fifth-year F, Vermont
Age: 22. Height: 6-1. Weight: 205.
Hometown: Collegeville, Penn.
The skinny: Has led Vermont in scoring the past two seasons ... Skated at the Blackhawks' summer prospects camp ... Was red-shirted after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery five games into the 2011-12 campaign.
Fourth-year F, Mercyhurst
Age: 23. Height: 6-5. Weight: 200.
Hometown: Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
The skinny: Has attended summer prospect camps for the New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames ... Helped Mercyhurst win its first Atlantic title this year ... Grew up on Long Island, but was a Rangers fan.
Third-year D, Western Michigan
Age: 21. Height: 6-0. Weight: 185.
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, Mich.
The skinny: His coach at Western Michigan is former NHL bench boss Andy Murray ... Finance major was named to his conference's all-academic team ... Played on the same blue-line in previous seasons with current NHLers Danny DeKeyser and Matt Tennyson.
Third-year D, UMass-Amherst
Age: 23. Height: 6-7. Weight: 250.
Hometown: Minsk, Belarus
The skinny: Because of his size, he's often compared to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, but Yevenko is more of a project ... Attended a summer prospect camp for the New Jersey Devils in 2013 and fought Devils draft pick Seth Helgeson ... Played for the Belarus national team in a Christmastime tournament in Switzerland.
Fourth-year F, Wisconsin
Age: 24. Height: 5-11. Weight: 180.
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
The skinny: Has 154 career points in 146 games in his four years at Wisconsin ... Played tier II junior with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, where he was the BCHL's leading scorer with 120 points in 60 games in 2009-10 ... Attended a summer prospects camp for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011.
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