Jason Zucker (16) made the jump from Denver (WCHA) to the Minnesota Wild
Now that the 2011-12 college hockey season has ended, look for even more under and upperclassmen alike to be jumping ship to the professional ranks in the weeks and months to come.
Some will be free agents, while others will take advantage of the fact that they were previously drafted by an NHL organization. Some will have exhausted their college eligibility altogether; others will forgo up to three years of college to sign their first pro contract.
Here's a list of 10 now-former NCAA skaters who could help their NHL teams in the near future—if they haven't already.
Schwartz left Colorado College after just two seasons to join the Blues, who had long touted his abilities after drafting him the first round in 2010.
After signing with St. Louis following the end of CC's season, Schwartz tallied two goals and an assist in his first seven NHL games. He had 32 goals and 56 assists for 88 points and 40 penalty minutes in just 60 college games, and as a freshman helped the Tigers to within a game of the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four.
The 5'10", 182-pound native of Melfort, Saskatchewan, who previously represented Canada at the World Junior Championships, will join the rejuvenated Blues on their Stanley Cup quest this spring.
Las Vegas-native Zucker left Denver after the Pioneers were eliminated in the NCAA Midwest Regional to sign with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him in the second round in 2010.
Zucker registered two assists in his first six NHL games this spring with the Wild, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a strong start, and will be counted on for his offensive prowess beginning next season. In two years with Denver, the 5'10", 175-pound forward collected 45 goals and 46 assists for 91 points in 78 games, while also racking up 97 penalty minutes.
A product of the US National Team Development Program headquartered in Michigan, and the first Nevada native ever drafted by an NHL club, he also participated in two World Junior Championships and won both gold and bronze medals with the U.S.
Hours after Union (NY) College was eliminated from its first-ever Frozen Four in Tampa earlier this month, Dutchmen junior forward and leading scorer Jeremy Welsh signed an entry-level deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.
He put together a career year in 2011-12 by tallying 27 goals and 17 assists for 44 points in 40 games, in leading Union to 26-8-7 record, a sweep of the Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season and playoff titles, and a pair of victories in the NCAA East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.
A 6'3", 200-pound native of Bayside, Ont., Welsh, 23, tallied 53-47—100 points, including 21 power-play goals, in three NCAA campaigns with the Dutchmen, and has the size pro teams are looking for up front. Especially a team like Carolina that just missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs once again.
Welsh actually made his NHL debut on Saturday for the Canes in a 4-1 loss at Florida, notching four penalty minutes, three hits, and two shots on goal in just over 16 minutes of ice time.
Krug, a 5’9”, 180-pound defenseman from Livonia, Mich., signed with the Boston Bruins as a free agent on March 25, just two days after Michigan State was eliminated from the 2012 NCAA Tournament by Union College at the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.
In three seasons in East Lansing, Krug scored 26 goals and added 57 assists for 83 points in 114 appearances. He also tallied 15 power-play goals and seven game-winning goals while with the Spartans, and collected a total of 175 penalty minutes.
Krug led all Central Collegiate Hockey Association defenseman in scoring this season with 12-22—34 points, which also tied him for the overall conference scoring lead, a first for a defenseman. He played in two NHL games with Boston, tallying one assist, and will have a chance to earn a regular job come training camp.
Drafted by Dallas in the third round in 2009, Smith went scoreless in three games with the Stars this spring after joining them from Miami (Ohio).
A 6'1", 183-pound native of Mimico, Ont., Smith tallied 66-56—122 points in 121 games in three seasons with the Red Hawks, and led them in scoring this past year with 30 goals and 48 points. As a freshman forward, he helped Miami to the 2010 Frozen Four in Detroit.
He'll be looking for a full-time job come fall with the Stars, who'll be looking to him for point production.
Brown made the jump from college sophomore to NHL rookie after Minnesota-Duluth was eliminated from the 2012 NCAA tournament. In five games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this spring, he picked up an assist.
As a freshman with UMD, he helped the Bulldogs to their first-ever national title by contributing 16-21—37 points. As a sophomore, he led them with 24 goals and was third on the team with 47 points. All told, in two seasons at Duluth, he had 40 goals and 44 assists for 84 points in 81 games, along with 109 penalty minutes.
Though undersized at 5'10" and 170 pounds, the Burnsville, Minn. native does have a touch around the net.
A Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist as the best player in college hockey this year, Colgate's Austin Smith led the nation with 36 total goals and registered 57 points in all.
The Dallas native, who was selected by his hometown Dallas Stars in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, had three assists in his first eight games with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
Smith finished his four-year career at Colgate with 79-87—160 points in 153 contests, and twice led the Raiders in scoring. He has great hands and a great shot, but his tenacity and willingness to compete are what he really sets him apart.
Chiasson played three years at forward for Boston University, collecting 36-63—99 points and 181 penalty minutes in 108 career games with the Terriers.
Drafted in the second round by the Dallas Stars in 2009, he had one assist in his first five pro games with Texas (AHL) this spring after leaving BU following the 2012 NCAA West Regional. As a junior, he set career highs this season with 15 goals, 31 assists and 46 points.
The 6'4", 195-pound Quebec native will be looked to for points and probably also physicality when the Stars reconvene in the fall, after missing out on the NHL postseason this spring.
The 6'2", 212-pound blueliner from California recently inked a deal with the San Jose Sharks as a free agent, and posted a goal in his first three games with Worcester (AHL).
Tennyson spent the last three seasons at Western Michigan, where he helped the Broncos to the 2012 Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championship with career highs of 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 41 appearances. He also helped WMU to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance after a 15-year drought.
In three seasons with Western, Tennyson recorded 22 goals and 32 assists for 54 points in 117 games, while adding 96 penalty minutes. It may take some doing to crack San Jose's lineup—but that might also depend on how far the Sharks go in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and if they'd be looking to make some changes next season.
Stalberg, whose older brother Viktor is a regular in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup, played the last three seasons at Vermont, where he accumulated 21 goals and 51 assists for 72 points in 106 outings.
A 6'0", 187-pound Swedish forward, he signed with San Jose following the conclusion of the Catamounts' season, and totaled three points in his first nine pro games with the Sharks' Worcester (AHL) affiliate.
Not a greatly prolific scorer in the college ranks, he still brings some size and skill to the table, although he'll have to fight for NHL ice time when training camp comes around.
The Texas native, who was tabbed in the second round by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009, helped Michigan to the 2011 NCAA title game where the Wolverines fell in overtime to Minnesota-Duluth.
Though it didn't make head coach Red Berenson happy to see Brown sign a pro deal instead of returning for his senior year, the 6'2", 194-pound forward registered 34-46—80 points and 56 penalty minutes in 125 collegiate games. He also tallied 12 game-winning goals with the Wolverines, along with 11 power-play markers.
Likely projected as a physical forward, Brown will have some work to do to crack the Coyote lineup in 2012-13, as Phoenix just won the first-ever division title in franchise history.