Five NCAA free agents that the Vancouver Canucks should pursue

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 7: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota Fighting Hawks skates against the Denver Pioneers during game two of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four Championship Semifinal at the Amaile Arena on April 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. The Fighting Hawks won 4-2. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 7: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota Fighting Hawks skates against the Denver Pioneers during game two of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four Championship Semifinal at the Amaile Arena on April 7, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. The Fighting Hawks won 4-2. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /
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Marc McLaughlin of the Boston College Eagles. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Marc McLaughlin of the Boston College Eagles. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

Jordan Kawaguchi – LW, University of North Dakota, Senior                                  UPDATE: Signed with the Dallas Stars

The pride and joy of Abbotsford, BC, should be the likeliest of the five to sign with the Canucks. The ultra-skilled winger played his junior for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL before heading to the University of North Dakota for his collegiate hockey career. Like his teammate Kiersted, Jordan Kawaguchi spurned NHL teams last spring for an opportunity to compete for a national title in his senior season.

The Hobey Baker finalist projects as a highly-skilled NHL winger that could carve out a role in an NHL team’s top nine. The biggest knock on him is his size, as Kawaguchi stands at just 5’9 and 181 lbs, which will cause teams to be wary of his ability to translate his game to the NHL. Kawaguchi has been an excellent playmaker at UND, racking up 0.91 assists-per-game in his last two seasons. Playmaking is a skill that is heavily based on hockey-IQ, and Kawaguchi should have no problem translating that over to the NHL.

Kawaguchi should draw a lot of interest on the open market, and the Canucks can offer something other teams can’t: A chance to come home.

Should Kawaguchi decide to sign with the Canucks, the team can offer him a chance to play right away as they likely won’t be in a playoff race down the season’s home stretch. Included with the likeliness of the Canucks selling at the trade deadline, opening up roster spots for the likes of possibly Kawaguchi and the organization’s prospects. Like my colleague, Brayden Ursel, said in his article last week: it’s time to let the kids play. 

https://twitter.com/TheNCHC/status/1213645334569603072?s=20

Marc McLaughlin – C, Boston College, Junior

Though not as offensively gifted as Kawaguchi, the two-way center broke out offensively for Boston College this season, racking up 10 goals and 24 points in 24 games. Marc McLaughlin projects as a strong defensive bottom-six center in the NHL, who doesn’t play a flashy game, but the skill-set he provides is valuable to NHL teams. McLaughlin is the type of player NHL coaches and GMs dream about having in their bottom six. The high character two-way stud does many things that don’t make the stat sheet but don’t go unnoticed.

McLaughlin’s high character was awarded when he was the Curt Hammer Award recipient as the player who distinguishes himself both on and off the ice by demonstrating outstanding performance skills, leadership, pride, and determination—and then being named captain of the Boston College Eagles for 2020-21 season. On the ice, McLaughlin’s play took off this season as he exploded offensively, going from a 0.32 points-per-game to a 1.0 point-per-game from his sophomore to junior seasons at Boston College, leaving the window open to keep improving as an offensive player.

McLaughlin is a swiss-army type player that would be an excellent fit in the Canucks bottom six and could grow into the long-awaited third-line center role that the Canucks have struggled to fill in years.