NHL Prospect Signings: Bardreau, Vatrano among free agents, draftees signing first pro deals

By Ken McKenna
Adam Tambellini - Calgary Hitmen

Photo: Calgary Hitmen forward and New York Rangers prospect Adam Tambellini had a breakout season for the Hitmen in 2014-15, leading to the Rangers signing him to an entry-level deal (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

 

The 2015 signing season for NHL prospects, both drafted and undrafted, is now underway, with Eastern Conference teams getting the jump on locking up a few important draftees as well as signing the first two NCAA free agents.

The Philadelphia Flyers have been the busiest club so far, inking three players to three-year deals, with one being a 2013 draft pick and the remaining two being undrafted free agents. The Boston Bruins were the other active team, signing a pair of free agent forwards to contracts.

Here is a rundown of the NHL prospect signings from the past week. Hockey’s Future will chronicle the signings between now and the June 1st prospect signing deadline.

NHL Eastern Conference

Flyers bolster forward depth

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall led off his team’s trio of signings by inking 2013 third round pick Tyrell Goulbourne to a three-year, entry-level contract. Goulbourne, a left wing, plays on the top line for the WHL’s top team, the Kelowna Rockets. The Edmonton, AB native provides the muscle on a line that includes offensively talented forwards Rourke Chartier (SJS) and Nick Merkley (2015). Playing with the likes of Chartier and Merkley has helped Goulbourne’s own point totals this season as he has produced 21 goals and 22 assists in 59 games, a career-high. But offense isn’t likely to be his game at the pro level; instead, his total of 459 penalty minutes in 272 WHL games gives a hint of his more robust style of play.

Hextall dipped into the QMJHL to sign the first of two free agent signees this past week, bringing Blainville-Boisbriand Aramada center Danick Martel into the fold with a three-year, entry-level deal. After a solid 2013-14 season in which he produced 60 points in 63 games, Martel has turned in a breakout campaign in 2014-15. The 20-year-old Martel is currently second overall in scoring in the QMJHL with 48 goals and 54 assists for 102 points in 64 games. Right behind him in the scoring ranks is linemate Nikita Jevpalovs, who recently signed as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks. At 5’8” and 162 pounds, Martel doesn’t possess ideal size, but he makes up for his diminutive build with a strong work ethic.

The last of the Flyers’ signings this week was college free agent Cole Bardreau from Cornell University. Bardreau just wrapped up his senior season at Cornell where he was that school’s leading scorer in 2014-15 with five goals and 17 assists in 30 games. Despite his place atop the Big Red’s scoring ranks, the Fairport, NY native is better known for his defensive game as well as his versatility as he is able to play center or right wing.

Bruins add depth on the wings

The Boston Bruins added a pair of free agent wingers to their stable over the past week, beginning with Seattle Thunderbirds right wing, Justin Hickman. The 6’2”, 218-pound Hickman is in his fifth season in the WHL; in 285 games, the Kelowna, BC native has scored 55 goals and added 77 assists for 132 points while racking up 466 minutes in penalties. Hickman’s 2014-15 season and WHL career were cut short, however, as he went through shoulder surgery that ended his season after 31 games. Hickman is an energy player with a bit of skill who isn’t afraid to use his size.

The other signing for Bruins’ general manager Peter Chiarelli came from the college ranks as the team inked left wing Frank Vatrano to a three-year deal. Vatrano just completed his sophomore season at the University of Massachusetts after having missed all but one game in his freshman season due to eligibility issues related to his transfer from Boston College. The East Longmeadow, MA native finished second in scoring for the Minutemen this season, scoring 18 goals and adding 10 assists in 36 games. Like Bardreau, Vatrano spent two seasons in the U.S. NTDP program before embarking on his college career. At 5’10” and 216 pounds, Vatrano has a low center of gravity coupled with a good shot and some playmaking ability.

Metropolitan Division teams sign 2013 draftees

Three teams from the NHL’s Metropolitan Division inked draft picks to contracts in the past week. The first of those signees was Tyler Lewington, a defenseman for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. The Sherwood Park, AB native signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Washington Capitals after the club had chosen him in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Draft. Lewington impressed during his time at the Capitals’ 2014 training camp but returned to Medicine Hat for the 2014-15 season. In 64 games so far this season, the 6’1”, 197-pound defender has scored eight goals and added 30 assists while posting 95 penalty minutes. Lewington makes good use of his solid size while playing a simple game, but not so basic that he can’t chip in on offense from time-to-time.

Another 2013 draft pick to sign his first contract was North Bay Battalion right wing, Nick Moutrey, who came to terms with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Moutrey, a fourth round pick for the Blue Jackets two years ago, split the 2014-15 season between North Bay and the Saginaw Spirit, who dealt the big winger to the Battalion prior to the OHL trade deadline. Moutrey is having his best season, scoring 23 goals and adding 36 assists in 57 games. At 6’3” and 220 pounds, Moutrey certainly has the size to compete in the pro game. The Shelburne, ON native seems to have gotten his offensive game together this season, but it remains to be seen if he will become the power forward that some envisioned.

The third Metro signing belonged to the New York Rangers, who inked 2013 third round pick Adam Tambellini to a three-year, entry-level contract. Tambellini has had a breakout season offensively for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, where he has netted 45 goals and chipped in 34 assists in 65 games. The Edmonton, AB native is known as an offensively oriented player, but up until this season had only shown flashes of that ability. He has added some two-way ability to his game this season and has posted a +40 rating so far in 2014-15. Tambellini has made definite strides this season but is still a work in progress.

NHL Western Conference

Stars, Blues ink NCAA prospects

The two signings out West were made by Central Division clubs. The Dallas Stars signed 2013 second round selection Devin Shore, while the St. Louis Blues came to terms with 2012 third round pick, Colton Parayko.

Shore has just completed a three-year college career at the University of Maine where he was that school’s leading scorer in 2014-15. In 39 games for the Black Bears, Shore netted 14 goals and added 21 assists for 35 points. Overall in his NCAA career, the Ajax, ON native was nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 34 goals and 70 assists for 104 points in 112 games. Shore, a center, is obviously a talented offensive player – more so on the playmaking side – but he’ll need time to develop in the AHL with the Texas Stars, where he has already appeared in one game.

Parayko ended his college career on a high as he was named the WCHA Defenseman of the Year for the second straight season, only the fourth time that a defenseman has accomplished that feat in that conference. Parayko competed for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks the past three seasons, posting 17 goals and 49 assists for 66 points in 104 games for the Nanooks. At 6’5” and 218 pounds, Parayko has great size and is not afraid to use it, although he isn’t purely a physical defenseman as his back-to-back awards would suggest. With his season now completed, the St. Albert, AB native will join the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

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