Lyon, Nelson and Tanev lead this season’s NCAA free agent group

By DJ Powers

Michael Garteig - Quinnipiac University

Photo: Quinnipiac University senior goaltender Michael Garteig has lost just twice in 34 appearances for the second-ranked Bobcats in 2015-16 (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)

 

Andrew Poturalski, C
Sophomore, University of New Hampshire (Hockey East)

 

New Hampshire sophomore Andrew Poturalski has made quite a splash this season, and scouts have certainly taken notice. The Williamsville, NY native currently ranks second in the nation with 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in all 36 games to date. One area where Poturalski has truly excelled this season has been on the power play, with eight of his 22 goals having come with the man advantage, a number that co-leads the team.

Poturalski is a 5’10”, 190-pound center blessed with speed and superb hands. He is an excellent skater who can get up to speed very quickly, and he does an excellent job of keeping his feet moving. Poturalski’s speed allows him to dictate the pace of the game as well as make things happen. He is very creative with the puck and is equally good at both setting up and finishing plays. Furthermore, Poturalski is opportunistic. He possesses great vision, reads plays quite well, and knows where the play is going.

With all the success that Poturalski has had this season, some scouts have expressed concerns about how much of that success will translate to the pro level. Nevertheless, he continues to garner lots of attention from NHL teams.

Nick Saracino, RW
Senior, Providence College (Hockey East)

 

Saracino is one of two Friars on this year’s list to have generated a great deal of NHL interest, and there is certainly a lot to like about his game. The St. Louis, MO native currently ranks third on the team with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 34 games to date.

Saracino is a gritty winger who has made a collegiate career out of being the perennial thorn in the side of the opposition. Simply put, he is a player that you would hate to have to play against but would love to have on your team. Although Saracino is on the smaller side (5’11”, 185 lbs.), he is remarkably strong on his skates, making him difficult to move off the puck. His strength also allows him to get great separation.

Saracino plays an ultra-competitive style. He is strong on the forecheck and is not afraid to mix things up. He has high level of competitiveness and possesses a junkyard dog-type of mentality in not only battles for the puck, but in establishing positioning. Furthermore, he does a great job of finding and creating space, whether for himself or his teammates.

Saracino is an excellent skater with quick feet who moves through traffic quite well. Furthermore, he does a great job of keeping his feet moving, and more often than not is around the puck.

Troy Stecher, D
Junior, University of North Dakota (NCHC)

 

Troy Stecher is one of only two regulars on North Dakota’s blueline that isn’t a current NHL prospect. The Richmond, BC native’s free agent stock has steadily risen since last season. Stecher currently leads North Dakota defensemen with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 34 games to date. He is a mainstay on the Fighting Hawks power play, where nearly a third of his points have been produced.

What Stecher lacks in size (5’11”, 191 lbs.), he makes up for with his superb skating and puck-moving ability. His style of play is similar to current Boston Bruins and former Michigan State standout Torey Krug, so it is not surprising that comparisons have been made. Stecher possesses excellent feet with great speed and acceleration. Few defensemen in the NCAA, drafted or otherwise, utilize their skating as effectively as Stecher does. This is evident in both his transitioning and in his ability to get out of difficult situations, especially in the defensive zone.

In addition to his skating, Stecher is also excellent with the puck. He possesses nice hands and a great stick. His passing is crisp, and he moves the puck very smartly at both ends of the ice. Stecher also has great vision, effectively finding open seams and getting pucks through.

Brandon Tanev, LW
Senior, Providence College (Hockey East)

 

The most sought-after collegiate free agent among forwards this year is senior Brandon Tanev, and it is not hard to understand why. There are numerous NHL teams interested in Tanev, including the Boston Bruins, whose development camp Tanev attended over the summer.

Until recently, Tanev played alongside Saracino and sophomore Brian Pinho (WSH) on Providence College’s stellar top line. The Toronto, ON native has played in all 34 games to date, posting 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists). His 15 goals currently co-lead the Friars, while his five game-winners lead the team.

Few collegiate players, drafted or otherwise, possess the sheer speed that Tanev does. What has scouts buzzing about him is how he utilizes that speed to greatly benefit his team. At 6’0” and 180 pounds, Tanev doesn’t have overpowering size, but he more than makes up for it with his game-breaking speed and 200-foot game. He can get up to speed very quickly and can make plays without breaking stride. Furthermore, he uses his speed effectively in all three zones.

Two attributes that have made Tanev invaluable to Providence College are his infectious energy and keen ability to make the players around him better.

Mike Vecchione, C
Junior, Union College (ECAC)

 

Although Mike Vecchione could have turned pro at the end of last season, he opted to return to Union College this season. That decision hasn’t hurt his free agent stock as NHL teams continue to heavily pursue the junior center.

The Saugus, MA native currently leads the Dutchmen with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 33 games. One notable area where Vecchione has excelled this season is on faceoffs, as he currently leads the nation with 498 faceoff wins and ranks fifth with a faceoff percentage of .618.

Vecchione is a playmaking center with terrific speed who plays a complete game. He possesses good hands and can make crisp passes while utilizing his speed effectively in creating opportunities and space. Although he is on the smaller side (5’10”, 195 lbs.), Vecchione is remarkably strong. He possesses great lower body strength that makes him difficult to move off the puck, but that strength also helps to enhance his speed.

As good as Vecchione is offensively, he matches with good defensive ability. He is very responsible in his own end, does a good job of blocking shots, and is quite good in penalty killing situations.

Other notables

Mike Borkowski, C – Senior, Colgate University (ECAC)
Brandon Denham, RW – Senior, Robert Morris University (Atlantic Hockey)
Carter Foguth, D – Junior, Minnesota State University-Mankato (WCHA)
Charlie Lindgren, G – Junior, St. Cloud State University (NCHC)
Ahti Oksanen, D/F – Senior, Boston University (Hockey East)

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF

 

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