NCAA UFA Targets: Defencemen

We’ve profiled some centres and some wingers who have been attracting some interest as NCAA free agents. Today we turn our attention to the defence, and see what could be had.

As the Canucks have seen immediate returns on the NCAA UFA market with defencemen in Troy Stecher, and Chris Tanev.

As with the previous profiles, we can only go off public information, so some of the players below likely don’t seem like great bets. But there has been mention of them attracting interest from NHL teams, so they are worth taking a quick look at.

Josh Healey

Image: TSN

The 22 year old defenceman (who turns 23 in July) from Ohio State is a player who is attractive interest from NHL teams. Measuring in at 6’0″ and 195 lbs, Healey has seen an increase in point totals every year in the NCAA.

Healey attended Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators development camps this past summer, and also attended the Edmonton Oilers development camp in 2015.

Bob McKenzie did a profile on Healey in early February, which included a scouting report:

Scouts say he’s a decent first-pass defenceman but his forte is open-ice hitting and playing a hard, physical game. He projects as a depth or perhaps third-pairing type defenceman. He’s not a sure bet to play in the NHL, but certainly worth a shot.

Image: Elite Prospects

Last season, Healey was named to the NCAA B1G First All-Star Team.

Despite not being known for his offence, Healey is still tied for 22nd amongst all NCAA defencemen scoring.

Just completing his D+5 season – if we use pGPS to look at Healey, 7.3% of comparable players (n=123) went onto becoming NHL regulars. Not a number that will jump out to you, but does show a bit of  track record of success.

The NCAA UFA route is a good way to get those depth defenceman. If you aim to select bottom pairing defensemen with draft picks, there is a high risk of it becoming a wasted draft pick. With players like Healey, they are closer to their ceiling, thus higher to project than 17 and 18 year old players. Something similar to this is covered in ‘Moneyball’. Where the difference between high-school and college players, and their projected ceilings.

If you think that Healey has a chance to provide your NHL team with some depth, then making a target makes sense. If he doesn’t pan out, he can provide some depth for your AHL team without costing any tangible assets, aside from money of course.

Nick Desimone

Image: Times Union

Desimone is a junior at Union College who is attracting see interest from NHL teams this year, with hopes they can get him to leave college early.

Image: Elite Prospects

When we use pGPS for DeSimone – only 5.9% of comparable players (n=273) went onto becoming NHL fixtures. That is a large sample size with a low success rate, and is attributed to low point totals in his third season in the NCAA.

Michael Kapla

Image: MN Hockey Hub

Back at UMass Lowell, there is a defenceman who is attracting the interest, and that’s Wisconsin native Michael Kapla.

Image: Elite Prospects

Kapla was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2013-14. He is tied for 18th in points amongst all NCAA defencemen.

When we use pGPS to look at the UMass-Lowell rearguard, 9.1% of comparable players (n=77) went onto becoming NHL regulars. Like Healey, that isn’t a high percentage but still presents a reasonable risk when compared to CHL UFA.

Daniel Brickley

Image: Mankato Free Press

The youngest of this group is Utah native Daniel Brickley who is rightfully catching the eye of NHL teams.

The smooth skating defenceman has exploded offensively this season with 30 points in 28 games.

Image: Elite Prospects

Brickley had attended Buffalo Sabres development camp this past summer. It is worth noting that Brickley and current Sabres defenceman Casey Nelson played together at Minnesota State.

He is currently 8th in scoring amongst NCAA defenceman but leads in goals and powerplay goals. Due to missing some games this season, he is ranked 2nd in P/GP (1.07) behind only Adam Fox (Harvard).

The young defencemen, who turns 22 at the end of this month, regards himself as an offensive defenceman who loves to carry and skate with the puck.

Throughout the season, there have been multiple reports of teams keeping close tabs on Brickley. So the interest is palatable and will be widespread.

When we look at Brickley with a statistical look through pGPS – 25.0% of his matches become NHL players (n=4). Important to note the total matches at 4, but that success rate is still encouraging.

Canucks Army (Josh W.) has done some statistical analysis on it before, and it has shown that NCAA players leaving after the sophomore year have a much higher chance of success rate. That aligns with where Brickley is right now.

It’s no wonder why teams are hoping that they can snap him up.


This year’s NCAA class isn’t very strong, but that doesn’t mean teams won’t try to take advantage of the market to supplement their prospect pools.

One of the players that made the list to be profiled, Kristofers Bindulis has already signed with the Washington Capitals. Furthermore, there are some other players who may end up being signed, such as NCAA D leading scorer Matias Cleland, but there hasn’t been widespread interest in them, thus we can only go off what is ‘out there’.

For the defencemen that we profiled today, Brickley and Healey are the two names that rise to the top.