The NCAA’s two power conferences are represented in the 2011 Frozen Four as North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth will be representing the WCHA against Michigan and Notre Dame from the CCHA.
North Dakota has crazy depth and will face an incredible test against Michigan as the Sioux haven’t had many hiccups in the second half of the season. Minnesota-Duluth has taken a Cinderella-type run past Union and top-seed Yale. Notre Dame’s goaltending makes them a scary team for anyone to face.
With all but four teams still playing, now is the time of the season when college free agents become attractive to NHL teams. Just today Niagara forward and Hobey Baker candidate, Paul Zanette, was signed by Montreal to an AHL contract. One of the biggest names on the table, Paul Thompson (UNH) was picked up by the Penguins. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a few games with the big club at the tail end of the year, they’re in dire need of forward depth.
In case you have missed the past few months, the Sabres are seriously thin at center. Lucky for them there are a couple attractive options available. Darcy Regier hasn’t been shy about signing college free agents (see: Mike Kostka and Travis Turnbull) and the new ownership certainly isn’t shy about spending money.
Carter Camper is a speedy, talented forward out of Miami who tallied 50 points this year. However, his size would make me stay away, far away. The Sabres don’t need anymore sub-5′ 10″ forwards. Camper’s teammate Andy Meile is on Kris Baker’s (of Sabres Prospects) radar already and is a center who racked up 61 points this season. He would be a nice fit for the organization moving forward, he could step into the AHL to finish this season and into 2012.
I have to say that Rick Schofield (Lake Superior) and Stephane Da Costa (Merrimack) would also be wise pickups for the Sabres. Both have good size and have shown the ability to produce points.
The college free agent route is always an attractive option. For example Matt Gilroy was expected to be a real asset two seasons ago but he hasn’t panned out to any more than a third pair d-man, second pair at best. So there is always the risk of going out and grabbing a roster player that may do nothing than fill in as a second line center in the AHL. In the Sabres case this probably is a viable option considering the prospect pipeline has been stretched thin at the pivot position. Grabbing one of these guys would bridge the gap for when anyone drafted recently (ex. Kevin Sunder) is able to jump to the professional level.