Just about every season at this point for the past couple of years there is a hot undrafted college free agent. This season it’s Stephane Da Costa with reportedly upwards of 20 teams interested in the Merrimack College center.
Just think about that for a minute and let it resonate; 20 teams!
Can you remember any proven NHL unrestricted free agent generating that kind of interest aside from a superstar?
It makes you ask yourself why are so many teams interested in a player that wasn’t even deemed draft worthy?
The answer lies within the Da Costa’s price tag and his ability to jump right into an NHL lineup. Most prospects aside from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos require some seasoning.
This is where Da Costa has the advantage, because he is already in college, he has already played two years against men in Division I College hockey and has fared extremely well there. He has recorded a pair of 45-point seasons for Merrimack and has led the club to its best season in school history.
He is 22 and physically mature and has proven that he can play against men.
This is much different than an undrafted Canadian Junior player who plays in a league where the majority of the players are 17-20 years old. This isn’t to say that plenty of amazing players come from Canadian Junior hockey, but that’s a debate for another time.
While Da Costa is seemingly a very valuable commodity, just look at similar situations in the past few years and look at how well they have panned out.
The Maple Leafs signed Tyler Bozak in a similar situation after he played two season at the University of Denver. Bozak has been a serviceable offensive player in Toronto scoring 13 goals and adding 16 assists in 76 games this season and totaled 27 points in 37 games last season. The Regina, SK native still has work to do in the defensive zone and has a miserable minus-27 rating this season.
Before Bozak, all the rage was about Swedish wunderkind Fabian Brunnstrom, who was playing in the Swedish Elite League at the time. Dallas was able to sign Brunnstrom in the 2008-09 season and he did well scoring 17 goals in 55 games. Since then Brunnstrom’s career has taken a serious downturn and he has since been traded to Toronto for prospect MIkhail Stefanovich and is playing for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL.
Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy is another example of a player who was in Da Costa’s situation. After playing all four of his college seasons with Boston University, the Rangers signed Gilroy, who was much sought-after at the time. Through offensive defenseman has just seven goals and 19 assists in 125 NHL games so far and has been a healthy scratch this season due to his poor defensive zone play.
Now ask yourself do you think that 20 general managers are really keeping a close eye on Brunnstrom, Bozak or Gilroy?
Didn’t think so.
Da Costa could easily have the same fate, so Brian Burke tread at your own risk.
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