For Paul Holmgren and the Philadelphia Flyers, the college free agency market has been used as both a crutch and a serious advantage. You don't want to have to rely on college free agents to stock your farm system, but at the same time, having the knowledge and exploiting that market whenever possible is a big advantage.
They've already dipped into the pool once since the college free agency season opened March 1, signing goaltender Cal Heeter at the end of Ohio State's season. Holmgren will continue to look, too, and his next move could involve Minnesota Duluth forward J.T. Brown.
Brown attended Flyers development camp over the summer, so its possible they could have an inside track on him, but he also attended Minnesota's camp as well. Via today's Daily News:
Sources say the Flyers are in the hunt for University of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore forward J.T. Brown, one of the premier scorers on the market this year. It's looking more and more like Brown will turn pro after this season.
That's right. He's just a sophomore, but he could certainly be NHL-ready sooner than later. I chatted briefly today with Bruce Ciskie, an SBNation.com contributor who just so happens to be the play-by-play voice of the UMD Bulldogs. I asked Bruce for a quick scouting report on Brown, to which he simply replied "KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF HIM."
"I don't have a scout's eye, but I don't think it's a stretch to say he'll be in the NHL next October," Ciskie said. "Fast as hell. Great shot. Good kid. Propensity for rising to the occasion."
That last part shines through pretty strongly. As a freshman a year ago, when the Bulldogs won the National Championship, Brown was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four. As a freshman. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune called him "easily the most impressive player on the ice" in the title game. He had an assist in that 3-2 overtime win over Michigan and both a goal and an assist in the National Semifinal against Notre Dame.
UMD is the No. 2 team in the nation, so regardless of their fate in this weekend's WCHA Final Five, they'll be heading back to the NCAA tournament. Whenever the Bulldogs' season ends, though, Brown will be up for grabs, and the Flyers are sure to be at the top of the list of suitors.
If signed, he'd likely finish out the season with the Phantoms on an amateur tryout contract, assuming his college season ends before the AHL regular season. That's putting the cart before the horse, but it's something to think about over the next few weeks.