The Daily Skate: NHL signing season heating up

Mankato v UND PUK 0396.jpg
UND's Cole Smith and Minnesota State's Connor Mackey look for a loose puck during the the first period Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, at the Mankato Civic Center in Mankato, Minn. Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

The college hockey season unexpectedly ended Thursday afternoon when the NCAA called off the postseason tournament due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The first few days after that, all was quiet on the NHL signing front. Outside of a few signings, it was atypically silent for the end of a college season.

Perhaps, a big part of that was due to the fact that nobody was rushing to sign and play in the pros this season. None of the pro leagues are playing, either.

But it was no longer quiet Tuesday.

The mad scramble was on to sign college prospects. A couple decisions were finalized Tuesday: Maine junior goalie Jeremy Swayman signed with the Boston Bruins and Western Michigan free agent senior defenseman Cam Lee signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Others appear imminent.

UND's Colton Poolman and Cole Smith, who have lived together for the last four years, are going to sign NHL deals in the next 24-48 hours, the Herald has learned from multiple sources. Both were undrafted, underappreciated players who took the long route to an NHL deal. Both are relentless workers who went back-and-forth for four years as UND's Iron Man.

Winnipeg fans have been pondering whether Colton will join his older brother, Tucker, with the Jets organization. However, multiple sources say that will not be the case. Colton will be charting his own path.

UND's two junior free agents, Jordan Kawaguchi and Matt Kiersted, have received considerable interest. However, it still remains possible that they return to school for their senior years.

There's been a feeding frenzy to get Minnesota State-Mankato junior defenseman Connor Mackey, who is expected to leave school. Mackey is an undrafted free agent who did not speak with NHL teams during the season. Among the teams believed to be contending to sign Mackey are Nashville, Winnipeg and Calgary. Winnipeg and Calgary both have an abundance of defenders on expiring contracts.

Other free agents whose names were buzzing in NHL circles Tuesday included Maine senior forward Mitchell Fossier (who led the Black Bears in scoring three years in a row), Western Michigan junior forward Austin Rueschhoff (who has some good hands to go along with his 6-foot-7, 232-pound frame) and St. Cloud State defender Jack Ahcan (who quietly had an excellent senior season).

Meanwhile, two Minnesota Duluth junior defensemen are in their decision-making process.

National Collegiate Hockey Conference player of the year finalist Scott Perunovich posted on Instagram: "Forever grateful for the boys, the city, and the program that made it possible to call this place home the last 3 years. These memories will last a lifetime! Love you forever Duluth..." That post caused speculation that he's about to sign with the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him in the second round, but Perunovich told Duluth News Tribune reporter Matt Wellens that it was just an "end of the season post" and that no signing is imminent.


The Winnipeg Free Press also caught up with Bulldog junior blue liner Dylan Samberg, a second-round pick of the Jets, who said he's still in the decision process, but referenced the school in the past tense, for whatever that's worth .

Hobey top 10 coming today

The season may have been cut short, but the Hobey Baker Award is going on as scheduled.

The top-10 finalists are expected to be announced today.

UND's Kawaguchi is a lock to be in the top 10. He will be UND's first top-10 finalist since goalie Zane McIntyre in 2015. McIntyre ended up making the top three but lost out to Jack Eichel, a Boston University freshman forward at the time.

Kawaguchi finished as the nation's second-leading scorer with 45 points, trailing only Providence's Jack Dugan, who had 52.

It seems pretty clear that the NCHC will have two finalists: Kawaguchi and Perunovich.

Since the great college hockey realignment of 2013-14, there has been just one winner outside of Massachusetts. That was Denver's Will Butcher in 2017. This year, it will likely go outside of Massachusetts again.

Cole Caufield staying at Wisconsin

Perhaps one of the big surprises of the offseason is that Wisconsin is going to retain Cole Caufield for another season.


Wisconsin State Journal reporter Todd Milewski broke that story Tuesday .

Caufield led the Big Ten in total goals with 19 and was the league's scoring champion (conference games only) with 24 points in 24 Big Ten games. Caufield is a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens.

It's a huge coup for the Badgers to get Caufield back after losing first-round pick Alex Turcotte, a forward, to the Los Angeles Kings and first-round pick K'Andre Miller, a defenseman, to the New York Rangers.

USCHO announces All-Americans

USCHO's 12 columnist voted on All-American awards this week.

Kawaguchi reeled in his first honor of the offseason by landing on the first team. The other first-team forwards were Dugan and Minnesota State-Mankato's Marc Michaelis.

Bismarck's Alec Rauhauser of Bowling Green made the second team.

See the full list here .

Alec Rauhauser's impressive point total

Rauhauser, who figures to be one of those senior free agents garnering NHL offers, was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association defensive player of the year for the second time.


Rauhauser finished the season with more career points (122) than anyone in college hockey.

Remarkably, it has been five years since college hockey has had a defenseman hit 122 points in his career. The last was Denver's Joey LaLeggia, who tallied 132 from 2011-15.

Rauhauser played four years of prep hockey at Bismarck Century and three years of juniors with Des Moines in the United States Hockey League before joining the Falcons.

Oshies have baby boy

Former Warroad High and UND star T.J. Oshie posted on Twitter that he and his wife, Lauren, are the proud parents of a baby boy, Campbell Richard Oshie.

The Oshies already have two daughters, Lyla and Leni.

Oshie said: "I finally got my golfing partner for life yesterday!"


Senator tests positive

Late Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators announced that one of their players tested positive for Covid-19.

The Senators did not name the player. They said the player has mild symptoms and is in isolation.

In a statement, the Senators also said: "The Ottawa Senators are in the process of notifying anyone who has had known close contact with the athlete and are working with our team doctors and public health officials. As a result of this positive case, all members of the Ottawa Senators are requested to remain isolated, to monitor their health and seek advice from our team medical staff."

UND has one former player on the Senators: defenseman Christian Wolanin.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
What To Read Next
Get Local