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Fantasy Pool Look: The college free agent

Tyler Bozak was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 out of University of Denver. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Tyler Bozak was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 out of University of Denver. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NHL has been signing undrafted players out of college for years. From Mike Ridley, Adam Oates and Curtis Joseph in the 1980s to Andy McDonald in 2000 - the practice is not a new one. However, it has become a lot more common since the lockout.

But while the number of NCAA or CIS players signed by NHL teams is in the double digits every March/April these days, you won’t see a hidden gem that will match the likes of Oates or Joseph anymore. Scouting practices today are just too advanced and with 30 teams now participating in the entry draft instead of just 21, the number of players selected has grown. But you’ll still find some good college free agents.

A common misconception among poolies is the assumption that a college graduate is NHL-ready and will contribute immediately. After all, that player is often 23 years old, which is an age when most prospects have already made the jump or are about to make the jump to the NHL. But these are late-bloomers we’re talking about here. Most of these players were known in their draft years and were purposely passed over in favor of other players. Maybe they were too small, or too slow, or they didn’t have the hands or reflexes. These players were ignored at the draft table more than once as well (18 and 19 years old).

At the age of 20, they were sophomores in college/university and their numbers still didn’t justify NHL attention. Meanwhile, 20-year-old prospects who actually had been drafted were progressing on schedule (and if not, they likely wouldn’t have been signed). So, of course the drafted players would be NHL-ready by the age of 23 and the undrafted players would not: That’s just logical.

Instead, what you witness is a 22- or 23-year-old college hockey player signing a pro contract to perhaps get an NHL trial. They’ll then play a full season in the American League before splitting time between the AHL and NHL at the age of 24 or 25. Finally, at age 26 the player is either posting the numbers you hope to see or he won’t be of any use to you.

This is the template being followed by Toronto’s Tyler Bozak and Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell. Bozak is coming off a tough season in which he managed just 32 points, but should we have expected more? Purcell also disappointed at that age (24 a year ago) with just 15 points. But look at him now: 62 points in 92 combined regular season and playoff games.

In keeping with this philosophy, don’t expect the likes of Phoenix’s Andy Miele, Boston’s Carter Camper, Minnesota’s Justin Fontaine or Edmonton’s Tanner House to do anything for you next year. Or the year after.

And last year’s crop, which includes Ottawa’s Bobby Butler and Minnesota’s Casey Wellman, are in the same boat, but just one year further along. So keep some of the better college players on your radar, but unless your league is deep don’t jump the gun. You could be wasting three years of bench space.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com
or follow him on Twitter at @DobberHockey.

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