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03-04-2013, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by jfb392 View Post
I don't think Jacobs will be signed and I'm not sure about Lepkowski.
I guess it depends if they think he has enough skill to not be a liability and if he'll be capable of shutting down opponents at a level high enough that they can ignore his lack of offense.
I haven't paid much attention to him this season, but I could see them letting him go if they sign a similar type out of college (since they'd be older players, they'd likely need less development time and would be easier to project), then keep an eye on him in his OA season and see if he's made progress.
They may have an advantage because he's a hometown kid.

As for free agents, I think these are some guys to look out for:
C/RW Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon, WHL) - Could be anything from a top six forward to a bottom line checker. Was probably unsigned because of uncertainty about what he'd become, but he has some intriguing tools.
LW Brendan Ranford (Kamloops, WHL) - Everything but skating, basically. Was not signed by the Flyers because of this, which I believe they thought was caused by a lack of commitment to conditioning.
LW Dylan Wruck (Edmonton, WHL) - Undersized and I think the measurements (5'9'' 175) may be a bit exaggerated, but you can't ignore his heart. Could be anything from a tweener scorer at the NHL level to a bottom line AHL pest. It really depends on if his game continues to be effective at the pro level.
D Joey Leach (Kootenay, WHL) - Big shutdown D that was McNabb's partner in Kootenay. Was a bit surprised that Calgary let him go.

LW Riley Brace (Mississauga, OHL) - This year's Mike Halmo, I think. A pest with offensive skill, but probably a third line checker if he reaches his ceiling.
D Nathan Chiarlitti (Owen Sound, OHL) - Maybe a bit undersized at 5'11''-6' (depending on who you believe), but just strikes me as a player that might find a way to succeed at the next level. He's all effort and smarts, not much flash. Also seems to be loved by many involved with organizations he's been part of.
D Matt Petgrave (Oshawa, OHL) - Flashy offensive defenseman. Great skater with the ability to quarterback a power play. Loves to step up and make the highlight reel hit, but still gets caught doing so. When he's good, he really good and he he's bad, he's really bad. A project, but could end up being a gem if he can be tamed a bit/picks his spots better.
D Cameron Wind (Brampton, OHL) - A physical, defensive defenseman that never really added any offense to his game, but he has had the unfortunate luck of playing for some boring Brampton teams.

Unfortunately, the player who I think may end up being one of the best players in the CHL crop this year (Charles Sarault, Sarnia) was already snatched up by Anaheim on March 1st.

And now the ones I'm really familiar with:
C Josh Currie (PEI, QMJHL) - Really came out of nowhere, but one has to keep in mind that he was stuck on the seemingly perennial suckfest known as the Rocket. Maybe a Pascal Dupuis type, but he wouldn't have the luxury of playing with a Crosby-level talent here. A heart and soul guy.
RW Stefan Fournier (Halifax, QMJHL) - A rough skater, but has plenty of size and a deft touch around the net, whether it's finishing or deflecting pucks. Seems to be a quirky guy that teammates love.
D Kevin Gagné (Rimouski, QMJHL) - The best offensive defenseman in the league. Undersized, but a great power play quarterback. Was offered a PTO by Hamilton at the beginning of this season after making the team out of camp but turned it down to return to the Q, so should at least get another look somewhere next season.
W/C Stephen MacAulay (Halifax, QMJHL) - Also made Hamilton out of camp and turned down a PTO to return to Saint John. Gives it his all, but just does not have the offensive talent to be anything more than a checker/grinder.
RW Petr Straka (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) - Went unsigned last summer but apparently has some interest now that he's producing with BC. Based on the rest of his career though, I think he's a speedy checking winger and not some offensive force like some teams seemingly think he is.

Then, there's a bunch of guys who aren't the biggest and have fatal flaws: Guillaume Asselin (Chicoutimi, an awkward skater and has not been able to find the same success as he did a few years ago), Ben Duffy (PEI, solid player but does not have any standout ability at the next level), Zach O'Brien (Acadie-Bathurst, a great offensive talent but possibly the softest player ever), and the Saulnier twins (the Sedins of the Q but slower skaters).
All of them will probably get at least an AHL camp invite, but will probably end being recruited by the high-end CIS programs.
IMO the most likely to stick out of that group is O'Brien, but teams will have to either accept that he's unwilling to play defense and is soft or try to change him.

Also, three 93's to keep an eye on for camp if they aren't drafted this summer are Todd Fiddler (Spokane, WHL), Barclay Goodrow (Brampton, OHL), and Peter Trainor (Rimouski, QMJHL).
I've liked all three of them for a couple years now and I'm particularly surprised Trainor wasn't drafted last year, especially when taking into account how terrible the depth was.
He was probably underrated due to the fact that he played Midget AAA in his draft year and was a Q rookie last year, but he's basically Zach O'Brien with NHL potential to me.
Maybe it's just the homer in me though since I have family in NB where he's from.

As for NCAA guys, I think it's a three way tie for the billing of top free agent between D Dan DeKeyser (Western Michigan, CCHA), D Nate Schmidt (Minnesota, WCHA), and D Andrej Sustr (Nebraska-Omaha, WCHA).

I haven't seen DeKeyser much, but he was probably the top free agent last season before deciding to return to WMU.
His size and skating are always cited as being the most intriguing parts of his game.
Schmidt has just average size, but has a cannon of a shot and the ability to run a power play and I could see him becoming the most notable of the three at the NHL level.
Sustr is 6'8'', which will inevitably have teams lining up to get him.
I am unsure of how well he'll do at the NHL level, but he's an intriguing project given his size and decent offensive ability.

There are also smaller playmakers like Drew Leblanc (St. Cloud, WCHA), Rylan Schwartz (Colorado, WCHA, brother of Jaden), and Mark Zengerle (Wisconsin, WCHA, from Rochester) that could end up being anything from top six tweener call up options to minor league stars.
Zengerle was someone who I wanted last year, but he has not looked the same this year.
It likely has a lot to do with losing Justin Schultz, but given his age, he should be able to dominate by now.

There's also C Antoine Laganière (Yale, ECAC) who projects to be a third or fourth line center (perhaps similar to Jeremy Welsh, who I have found disappointing thus far as a pro) and LW Greg Carey (St. Lawrence, ECAC), who I have never personally seen, but he's semi-local (Hamilton), is the co-leader in national scoring, and set a goal scoring record in the OJHL a few years back.
I'd love to see Joey Leach here simply because he's my partner in NHL 13 Be a Pro.

Seriously though, these are guys that you get for pretty much nothing. It wouldn't hurt to take a swing here or there, and I hope we at least give a few guys looks. And getting him back with McNabb could at least be interesting to watch.

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