August 15 is almost always a low-key exciting day in the NHL. For a small minority of NCAA players that are drafted and choose not to sign with their original teams, once they wait their NHL rights expire and they’re free to sign with a team of their choosing. In the past, names such as Justin Schultz (spurning Anaheim for Edmonton), Kevin Hayes (ditching Chicago for NYR), and Jimmy Vesey (leaving Nashville for the Rangers) have gone this route.
2017 was also an exciting year for the August 15 free agents. The Penguins lost the rights to their 2013 sixth round pick Blane Byron, who elected not to sign with the deep Pittsburgh team and instead opted to try his luck with an AHL-only contract with Florida, hoping a great 2017-18 in the AHL would earn him an NHL spot for 2018-19.
“I’ve always kind of been told to go with your gut feeling with things,” Byron said in an interview. “It just felt right there.”
It didn’t really work out for him since he only scored 13 points in AHL games last season. I believe Byron’s back on another AHL contract with Springfield.
Defenseman Will Butcher turned a cold shoulder to Colorado and elected to sign with the New Jersey Devils. Butcher put up five goals and 44 points for a solid NHL rookie season that saw him finish ninth place in Rookie Of The Year voting.
Ironically enough, Alex Kerfoot was the anti-Butcher since New Jersey drafted him, but he didn’t sign there and instead went to the Avalanche team Butcher walked away from. Kerfoot also had success scoring 19 goals and 43 points in the NHL last season.
So, August 15 can be an important day for teams to attempt to recruit talent that could make a difference right off the bat. Unfortunately though, the pool of players eligible for free agency tomorrow, there aren’t any Butcher or Kerfoot level players in the group. Most look like Blaine Byron types.
Johnathan MacLeod is notable for his draft pick in the second round, but it’s another cautionary tale of a late, second-round pick is very prone to never amounting to much at the pro level. This looks like the case here, as MacLeod’s shown little progession at Boston University and doesn’t appear to have much a future in pro hockey.
Same could be said for the next-highest on the list, defenseman Jack Glover, who was also a fairly high draft pick in 2014 (third round, 69th overall), but only looks ECHL-caliber.
Similarly, forward Shane Eiserman (fourth round, 100th overall pick in 2014) had declining stats every season at the University of New Hampshire. He only put up 10 points in his senior season.
The list goes on. The bottom line is that there’s no prospect remotely close to NHL level at this point. So much like this summer has been pretty quiet, there won’t be any reprieve tomorrow with NCAA free agents.