The Bridgeport Regional: Four undrafted free agents to watch

Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Like in the Fargo Regional, we will highlight one undrafted free agent per team in this competitive regional to watch. Each team has some talent not selected in the NHL draft with a chance of playing in the NHL very soon.

Lake Superior State Lakers

Mareks Mitens

The Ventspils, Latvia native is one of the best goaltenders in the country, and played against several other top flight goaltenders in the WCHA this year. The Latvian netminder is one of the most athletic goalies left in this tournament, and has the ability to make saves look easy and keep the game calm. When the Lakers’ offense has gone dormant this year, he has kept them in games. His strong hockey sense, combined with getting feedback over the course of the two NHL development camps he has attended ( Islanders, Blackhawks) has helped improve his play to the point where the goaltender not many new about before he represented Latvia in the 2016 World Under 18 Championship in Grand Forks now projects to get multiple offers at the next level. If he can keep the Lakers in it early against a very offensively gifted Massachusetts team then they could have a chance to move on, beyond that if his improved defense can limit the grade-a looks that he sees, Mitens could help his team make it to the Frozen Four.

Bemidji State Beavers

Zach Driscoll

He has the athletic ability of Mitens, and calmness to match. The Beavers’ netminder also has a team in front of him with not as much offensive upside as the Lakers have. Despite that, he got his team into the tournament through playing well against the best competition in the league, Minnesota State. In every game he has played in this year, he has shown calmness in net, and the ability to make tough saves look easy while benefiting from the defense-first system that the Beavers play. When they took on Alabama Huntsville, the Chargers had moments of a surge, but Driscoll kept them at bay. For his team to defeat the high-flying Badgers of Wisconsin, he will have to do more of the same.

Wisconsin Badgers

Ty-Belton Pice

To play on a line with Cole Caufield, you need to have physicality, and the ability to get him the puck, along with some shooting prowess of your own. Luckily he has all three of those things. The senior center has 29 points in 23 games, and is a big reason for Caulfield’s likely Hobey Baker Award that he will win in a few weeks. The way he plays the game to lead his Badgers involves a lot of physicality, and he is also one of the smarter players on-ice that they have. While the spotlight will rightly be on Caufield, look for Pice’s role to matter just as much in determining how far the Badgers will go this postseason. After this year, given the success of his line, NHL teams may want to chat with one of the better assist-generating centers in the country who help set up the best goal scorer in the country. He can earn his way to the NHL in a few years if he keeps his work ethic where it is, and shows scouts that his abilities translate to the next level.

Massachusetts Minutemen

Olivier Chau

If you think Odeen Tufto of Quinnipiac will get a lot of attention by NHL teams after this year for his superb playmaking ability, you are correct. Chau’s numbers while not as gaudy suggest his ability to put up assists in a similar manor at the next level. Along with being incredibly disciplined (one penalty taken for a mere two minutes this season), he can distribute the puck at a high level. He has 17 assists in 25 games on a team that has speed and scoring up and down its lineup, and on a group that has had to win tough defensive battles in a strong Hockey East only schedule this year. Chau’s skill and discipline will most likely appeal to any NHL team looking for a responsible playmaker who can make their top goal scorers at the AHL level better, while being able to play a third or second line role in the NHL one day soon.

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