On Campus: 10 potential free agents being evaluated by NHL teams


Though the chances are slim that an undrafted college forward or defenseman capable of making an immediate impact in the NHL will be there for the taking, solid prospects and depth players are available every year.

The group this season is rated as average by NHL scouts.

“There no one big blue-chip guy that will have 32 offers,” said one evaluator.

Here are 10 potential free agents who are getting looks from NHL teams (listed in alphabetical order): 

Parker Ford, Providence College

Ford (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) checks all the boxes when it comes to character and intangibles.
The junior plays center but some scouts believe he could end up a wing as a pro. He played a bottom-six role for the United States in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Ford scored the game-winning goal and had an assist in a 2-0 win at Vermont last Saturday. He has scored 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 15 games this season.

Ethen Frank, Western Michigan University

Frank (5-11, 185) has scored 12 goals this season, tied with Taylor Ward of the University of Nebraska Omaha for the NCAA lead.

The graduate student has scored four game-winning goals, four power-play goals and a shorthanded goal. He has 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 12 games. 

Riese Gaber, University of North Dakota

A sophomore wing with a scoring touch, Gaber (5-8, 160) has scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists) this season. He led the USHL in goals with 34 in 47 games for Dubuque in 2019-20.

Akito Hirose, Minnesota State University

Hirose (6-0, 191) has scored 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 12 games. The sophomore defenseman’s best attributes are his poise and hockey IQ.

Marc McLaughlin, Boston College

McLaughlin (6-0, 202) had a lot of free agent interest after last season but opted to return for his senior year.

Known for his leadership, McLaughlin is in his second season as captain of Boston College. He also was a captain in prep school at Cushing Academy and Cedar Rapids of the USHL.

McLaughlin has scored 13 points (nine goals, 4 assists) in 14 games this season. He was named Hockey East Best Defensive Forward Award last season, when he scored three shorthanded goals.

Ben Meyers, University of Minnesota

Regarded by some scouts as the best of the potential free agents, the junior forward was a standout at Boston Bruins development camp in August.

Skilled and smart, Meyers (5-11, 200) plays with pace and contributes at both ends of the ice. He is Minnesota’s captain and was named to the preseason All-Big Ten First Team. He’s tied for second in team scoring with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 14 games.

Travis Mitchell, Cornell University

A junior defenseman, Mitchell (6-3, 207) didn’t play last season after the Ivy League canceled winter athletics because of COVID-19.

He has scored four points (two goals, two assists) in eight games this season, including a power-play goal and an assist in a win against Yale last Saturday.

Brandon Scanlin, University of Nebraska Omaha

One of the top defensemen in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Scanlin (6-4, 213) plays in all situations. The junior has scored 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 14 games.

Before college, Scanlin played for Brooks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar played three seasons from 2014-17.

Bobby Trivigno, University of Massachusetts

A first-team All-America selection last season, the ultra-competitive senior forward (5-8, 162) was named Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four when UMass won the NCAA championship in April. 

Trivigno, a Long Island native (Setauket, New York) who grew up rooting for the New York Rangers, has scored 14 points (six goals, eight assists) this season.

Taylor Ward, University of Nebraska Omaha

Ward (6-2, 207) has been a point producer throughout his college career. The senior wing has scored 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 14 games this season. 

Nine of his 12 goals have come on the power play. He is tied with Frank for the most goals in the NCAA.

Ward’s father, Dixon Ward, played 537 NHL games for six teams.

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