By Alex Annon
After a grueling season spent trying to achieve the biggest prize in NCAA Hockey, many guys ended up signing contracts with AHL and NHL clubs to begin their transition to the big leagues.
Top prospects like Matty Beniers, Owen Power and Kent Johnson have all signed with their parent clubs and even Michigan captain Nick Blankenburg has signed with Columbus as an undrafted free agent. Lots of movement for some of the big names in NCAA hockey, but let’s talk about some of the early days we haven’t talked about yet and how these players fared in their first taste at the pro level.
Bobby Brink, RW – Philadelphia Flyers (10GP: 0-4-4)
Age: 20, 5-9 163lbs
Following Denver’s victory over Minnesota State in the Frozen Four Finals, runner-up Hobey Baker signed his contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and was immediately deployed to the top six of a team looking to gain clarity before the offseason. Averaging 15:28 TOI during his stint with the Flyers, Brink’s style of play seems to fit right in at the NHL level. Always praised for his toughness, Brink clipped a pass into the slot, shielded the puck from forechecks, managed to unload the puck and dropped the puck for a breakaway chance that was put on the rebound for his first career assist – all on his first NHL shift. Now, all his shifts will certainly not be like this, but in this moment he showed the Flyers everything he brings to the ice in his game and what they can expect from him. His vision, his awareness and his ability to blaze trails are things that Broad Street devotees are sure to fall in love with, if they haven’t already.
Nicholas Abruzzese, C/LW – Toronto Maple Leafs (9 GP: 1-0-1)
Age: 22, 5-9 161lbs
Crimson captain Nick Abruzzese chose to forgo his senior year and lace up his skates in Toronto. He made his debut on the fourth line where he can hope to bring some offense to a team looking to find a deep score ahead of what is hopefully a deep playoff run. At Harvard, he was a solid playmaker as he totaled 24 assists in 28 games and was even good for 9 goals this season. He scored his only goal against the Boston Bruins in the final game of the season with a nice redirect in front of the net that managed to beat Jeremy Swayman. He could potentially find himself getting an opportunity on PP2 as he featured a nice one-timer with the Harvard Crimson and may be able to fill a similar role for the Leafs in the future. Although he’s only played small minutes so far as he’s been deployed to the backline, Abruzzese can be nurtured with this limited role and get comfortable before making his impact felt more strongly. With the Toronto Maple Leafs primarily built around skills and currently finding themselves rather short of a cap, Abruzzese can use his skills, size and contract to really cement himself as an attractive option for the upcoming season if he can start. to show little more than a consistent offensive spark on the fourth line.
Jack McBain, C- Arizona Coyotes (10 GP: 2-1-3)
Age: 22, 6-4 212lbs
After four years at Boston College and a small business saga, Jack McBain landed in the NHL via the Arizona Coyotes this season after posting a career year for the Eagles with 33 points in 24 games. Playing a mid-six role for the Coyotes, McBain averaged 14:02 TOI per game and did a good job adjusting to the pros early on. His size is perfect for someone like him who does a good job of getting in front of the net and he found some success early on muscled his opponents and won loose puck runs as a result. He also showed good lunge movement and managed to score his first NHL goal in a high lunge deflection drive to beat Fleury and the Wild. His physical attributes have made his transition a little smoother than some other prospects, and he will look to continue that next year where he is expected to be given a similar role in a young and rebuilding team in Arizona, where many spots of the list should be up for grabs.
Nathan Smith, C- Arizona Coyotes (10GP: 2-2-4)
Age: 23, 6-1,190 lbs.
After a solid season in which he led the Minnesota State Mavericks to the Frozen Four Finals and compiled 50 points in 38 games, Winnipeg Jets draft pick Nathan Smith ended up signing with Arizona after choosing not to sign with the Jets. With more room to break the roster in Arizona, Smith’s career got off to a good start as he saw time as a 2nd line center averaging 13:54 TOI in his first 10 games. Smith is a solid size and brings versatile play to the Coyotes roster as he mixes his puck skills with a physical edge to his game. He forechecks strong, throws massive shots and can beat players 1-on-1 ; all of that should make for a good NHL player. After a few scoreless games to start, Smith scored points in 3 of 4 games during his stint with the Coyotes as he showed he was starting to acclimate after a short time with his new club. A whole offseason of training and training with his NHL teammates should see him back and ready to challenge even more ice time next season.
Brendan Brisson– Henderson Silver Knights (7 GP: 3-5-8)
Age: 20, 6-0 185 lbs.
Although he may not have made his NHL debut yet, Brendan Brisson is another NCAA star who made the transition to professional hockey after his Michigan Wolverines were bounced by Denver in the Frozen. Sowing Oven. Signing an AHL contract with Henderson, Brisson had a torrid start to his professional career after scoring in each of his first three games, also collecting three assists in those games as well. Brisson’s hockey IQ is one of his best traits, otherwise, because he sees the ice so well and knows exactly what he wants to do before the puck even hits his stick. His shooting and passing ability also cannot be overlooked, although he is overshadowed by the Wolverines’ loaded team. Brisson is a gifted shooter and puck distributor who has made him such a power play weapon. Both Henderson and Vegas play exciting, fast-paced hockey, so a player with Brisson’s offensive skills should definitely have a chance to continue to thrive. Given the salary cap issues Vegas finds itself in, they’re going to have to look for low-cost players who can impact their team this offseason, and they have a good look at what Brisson can potentially bring to their roster next season. next season.