By Grant Flood
As the 2020-2021 NCAA hockey season came to a close this past Saturday, it is time for all 31 NHL franchises to have a chance to extend their top prospects to a 3-year entry-level contract, meaning, players who are signed will play in the American Hockey League before getting called up to the National Hockey League. Over 20 prospects have signed with their respected teams thus far, here are the top 3 AHL-ready players from the 2019 draft class, D, Cam York – 14th overall by the Flyers, G, Spencer Knight – 13th overall by the Panthers, and RW, Cole Caufield – 15th overall by the Canadiens. If these youngsters keep the same intensity and vigor as their college days, they should take the NHL by storm.
Prospect #3. Cam York, Defenseman – Michigan, Big Ten
Philadelphia Flyers prospect, Cam York signed his entry-level contract on March 31st. York, described as a “smooth-skating, point-producing blueliner with endless skill and advanced smarts” per NBC Sports Philadelphia, his talents have beamed throughout his 2 years at Michigan and as captain for Team USA during the 2020 World Juniors Tournament. The Anaheim native stands at a small 5’11”, 174 lbs, York is considered as an elite offensive defenseman than a heavy hitter, a key element the Flyers have desperately needed in their lineup this season. In his freshman year, he earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team as he scored 5 goals, more than any other in his class, York was also a nominee for the Big Ten Rookie of the Year. As a sophomore, he led all Big Ten defensemen in scoring with 0.83 points per game, a finalist for the Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and was awarded the Big Ten Defenseman of the Year. York delivered a strong performance during the 2020 World Juniors with 5 assists and 6 points in 7 games as the United States defeated Canada 2-0 to capture the gold. Unfortunately for York, he has yet to see time in AHL as consecutive Lehigh Valley Phantoms games have been postponed due to Covid-19 protocols.
Prospect #2. Spencer Knight, Goaltender – Boston College, Hockey East
Spencer Knight signed his entry-level deal on the last day of March with the Florida Panthers who wasted no time inserting him on the active roster as he was called upon April 8th blowing right past the AHL. However, he will remain the 3rd string goaltender until further notice as current backup, Chris Driedger (12 wins, .930 save percentage) has been on the trading block as the Panthers deemed Knight to be NHL-worthy. Many insiders believe Knight is one of the best if not the best prospect goalie in the NHL right now. In his 2 years with Boston College, Knight registered an impressive 39-12-3 record averaging a .931 save percentage. A scorching start going 10-0 in 2017-18 with the United States Hockey League (all-junior league/17 yrs or under), Knight described as a “solid butterfly goaltender … keeps his movements tight … explosive from side to side … plays with calmness … communicates well … eats up rebounds” as told by ISS Hockey back in 2017. Just like York, Knight played sensationally in his own right for Team USA during the 2020 World Juniors, going 7-3, earning 3 shutouts and a .928 save percentage. This past season, Knight captured the American East Goalie and Player of the Year notching up a spot on the First-Team All-American and All-Star rosters.
Prospect #1. Cole Caufield – Right Winger – Wisconsin, Big 10
Cole Caufield, the superstar winger who many believe is the best prospect in hockey signed his entry-level contract on March 27th with the Montreal Canadiens. He racked up a phenomenal 88 points in 67 games with the Wisconsin Badgers in 2 seasons and has earned many accolades. Caufield ran away with the Big 10 Rookie of the Year Award along with being a member of the First All-Star team in 2019-20. This season, he exploded with 51 points in 31 games earning him another First All-Star team appearance and handed the Big 10 Player of the Year. Spencer Knight chimed in on Caufield’s amazing skills by stating, “It’s impossible to stop every single one of his shots.” Caufield’s best performance this season was inserting two hat tricks onto his NCAA hockey portfolio, the first against Penn State on November 24th and another against Ohio State on February 27th. Caufield’s natural raw skills and strong work ethic paid off as he received the most coveted award in collegiate hockey, Hobey Baker Award on April 9th. Crazy enough, Caulfield has already tallied 4 points in his first 2 AHL games, scoring twice in his debut with the Laval Rocket.
Additional NCAA Men’s Hockey News:
On April 10th at the PPG Arena, Pittsburgh, UMass Minutemen marks school history with their first-ever NCAA Men’s Championship by humiliating St. Cloud State 5-0. An incredible feat surpassing the Frozen Four Semifinal without 4 of their players due to Covid-19 protocols, including, leading goal-scoring forward, Carson Gicewicz, and starting goalie, Filip Lindberg. All 4 players returned to action for the championship bout as St. Louis Blues prospect, defenseman, Matthew Kessel, and MVP forward, Bobby Trivigno each tallied a goal. Lindberg with 25 saves, earned the 4th shutout of his NCAA Tournament career. This season alone, Junior forward, Bobby Trivigno registered a team-leading 33 points in 28 games along with a stellar +20 plus/minus rate. Minutemen goaltenders, Matthew Murray and Filip Lindberg equally had a superb season, Murray going 10-4-0 with 3 shutouts and Lindberg 10-1-4 with 5 shutouts. Key contributors, Carson Gicewicz plotted 17 goals with 24 points, and right behind him, Matthew Kessel racking up 22 points and 26 blocked shots, both doing so in 28 games.