It’s time to take a look at some of the NCAA free agent defensemen the New York Rangers may want to consider signing now that the college season has come to a premature end.
In our last article, Blue Line Station looked at some of the forwards playing college hockey who could be ripe for the signing as undrafted free agents. While the New York Rangers’ greatest need is depth at the forward positions, there are a number of highly regarded defensemen available as well.
The most successful collegiate free agent signing was a defenseman. Neal Pionk was a star at Minnesota-Duluth when the Rangers outbid other NHL teams and he lived up to their projections by becoming a top pair blueliner. Every team hopes to find a Pionk or better yet, a Martin St. Louis who was not drafted after four years at the University of Vermont and became a Hall of Famer.
It might be difficult for the Rangers to persuade a college free agent defenseman that signing with the Blueshirts is a good idea considering their depth at that position. However, with both Marc Staal and Brendan Smith a year away from the end of their contracts and the expansion draft to follow, it might make sense for the Rangers to add to an already impressive pool of defense prospects.
Matt Kiersted, Left Defense – North Dakota
Kierstad has finished his junior year at North Dakota. The 21 year old lefthanded shooting defenseman was the third highest scoring defenseman in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). He had six goals and 29 points in 33 games for the Fighting Hawks, ranked third in the nation behind Cornell and Minnesota State. At 5’111″, 184 pounds he is not the biggest blueliner available.
No doubt he is another collegiate athlete disappointed by the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and the question is whether he will return for his senior year to try for a national championship.
Connor Mackey , Left Defense – Minnesota State University-Mankato
TSN ranked Mackey as their top undrafted college free agent. According to Frank Seravelli of TSN, 28 of the 31 NHL teams contacted him last summer about potentially turning pro. He just finished his junior year and the 23 year old had his best season yet, with seven goals and 24 points in 36 games.
Seravelli reports that nine NHL teams have met with him this season and assured him that he could see action in the NHL as early as this year. Known as a “big blueliner who can skate,” MacKey is 6’2″, 200 pounds. He has NHL bloodlines. His father, David, was a winger who played 126 games in the NHL for Minnesota, Chicago and St. Louis .
Mike Lee, Left Defense – Sacred Heart University
Lee is a senior who played the last two years at Sacred Heart after transferring from Vermont. With 33 points in 33 games, Lee had one of the highest points per game ratios of any collegiate defensemen and the best among undrafted blueliners.
No player from Sacred Heart has ever played in the NHL and Lee would be the first. He’s a lefthanded shot with decent size at 6’0″, 190 pounds and he grew up in Hamden, Connecticut.
Josh Maniscalco, Right Defense – Arizona State University
Maniscalco is a 21 year old who exploded offensively in his sophomore year. He had ten goals and 19 assists in 33 games after playing with the US National Development team. He’s a righthanded shot who stands 6’1″ and 200 pounds. In all likelihood, he will be returning to ASU for his junior year unless an NHL team can convince him to turn pro.
Brinson Pasichnuk, Left Defense – Arizona State University
The Sun Devils are making impressive inroads as a hockey power since becoming a NCAA Division 1 team in 2015-16. We’ve already talked about winger Johnny Walker and defenseman Josh Maniscalco and now it’s his defense partner, Brinson Pasichnuk. Pasichnuk is a senior and is expected to be highly sought after.
Here’s what Greg Power, his coach, told Elite Prospects.com: “He’s a special player. We were dumbfounded he wasn’t drafted after his freshman year. … He’s the best player on the ice when we play, it doesn’t usually matter who we’re playing. … He came here to build the program.”
Frank Seravelli called him”an undersized, but thickly built offensive genius” and he cited his ability to quarterback the power play. He’s 5’10” and 190 pounds and TSN report that 30 teams showed in interest and he has narrowed it down to three contenders.
The cancellation of the rest of the season and all tournaments really hurt him as he could have signed as soon as the ASU season ended on February 22 and burned a year on his ELC, but was waiting for an NCAA tournament bid for the Sun Devils.
Colton Poolman, Left Defense – North Dakota
Pollman is a lefthanded shooting defenseman who just completed his senior year at North Dakota. He’s 6’0″, 195 pounds and had four goals and 17 points for the Fighting Hawks. He was one of the top defensemen along with the aforementioned Matt Kiersted on the third ranked team in the nation.
Alec Rauhauser, Left Defense – Bowling Green University
Rauhauser is a senior who has been a stalwart on defense for Bowling Green for four year.s At 6’3″, 215 pounds, he has he size that NHL teams crave. He’s been to the Los Angeles Kings development camp and many expected him to turn pro last summer. Elite Prospects.com says “He is a complete package…and a guy who can play both ends of the ice, and he’s steadily improved his skating over the years. ”
He notched a career high 11 goals this season and finished with 35 points in 38 games. This was a rebound season from his junior year when he focused more on his defensive game.
We won’t be looking at goaltenders as the New York Rangers have one of the deepest goaltending pools of any team in the NHL. The one name worth noting is John Lethemon who is a senior at Michigan State University. Another is Peyton Jones of Penn State.
That’s just a partial list of the collegiate defensemen you could be hearing about in the coming weeks. While the Blueshirt have deep pool of defense prospects, they are always looking to build up their roster of potential NHLer’s.