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College free agents Flyers can target

As we approach the best time of the college hockey calendar, there are plenty of players that will soon be available.

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If you thought that potential transactions and rumors of those transactions were done when the NHL trade deadline passed last week, well, you were plain wrong.

With the NCAA college hockey season coming to its boiling point with the good teams involved in the playoffs and the bad teams done their seasons, the hockey world is now drawn to players that are looking to turn professional and start their new chapter on the path to the NHL.

This year’s class of college free agents doesn’t have any can’t-miss players, but it has some substantial depth and dudes that can end up playing in the big leagues regularly as soon as next season. Hell, with the right team maybe they just walk right into a regular spot on a team.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperate need for some young(ish) talent that can spice things up and at least give us hope that there is a potential successful team hidden in this pile of picks and prospects.

So, let’s check out some guys that the Flyers could sign once they have their season wrapped up.

C Austen Swankler, Bowling Green

At 21 years old, Swankler is a step younger than a lot of his fellow college free agents but has the same amount of excitement surrounding him. The center that grew up in the Pittsburgh area in North Huntingdon, is hopefully thinking about the brighter pastures out east.

He bounced around the OHL — playing one full season for the Erie Otters — but regained his NCAA eligibility and his two seasons with Bowling Green, has scored 27 goals and 70 points in 71 games, which includes his 44-point campaign this year on a team with zero depth. He led Bowling Green in scoring by 13(!) points at just 21 years old.

Because of his age, he might be returning to school for his junior season, but he is a guy that will have plenty of suitors if he decides to start his pro career. Swankler is more known for his stickhandling than his skating, but that stuff can be worked on.

C Wilmer Skoog, Boston University

Another forward with skill, the Swedish center Skoog — say that 10 times, fast — is a 23-year-old forward that saw his production just stay steady compared to his previous years. A 30-point campaign followed by a 27-point campaign isn’t all that exciting to think about, but Skoog is known for more than just his stat sheet.

He has scored four Michigan goals for Boston University.

At this point, even if he tops out as a decent depth forward, having a guy that if given the time and space, can just do that, is worth the contract. Give us something to look forward to, Flyers.

LW Matt Brown, Boston University

Another forward (we’ll get to the lack of defensemen soon), the 23-year-old Brown led BU in scoring with 43 points in just 33 games this season. That makes the senior forward tied for the scoring lead in Hockey East.

He is not that tall, standing at 5-foot-9, but is built well enough at 190 lbs. to maybe not let NHL scouting staffs completely disregard him. Brown is projected as something special, but an adequate signing to supplement a young group of forwards.

D Jake Livingstone, Minnesota State-Mankato

Ah, we get to the one of the few blueliners available in college hockey and certainly someone that is seen at the top of the overall class this year.

Jake Livingstone got plenty of interest last year, but decided to go back for his junior year at Minnesota State-Mankato. The 23-year-old, right-handed defenseman is not a super skillful player, or someone that you will see on highlight reels, but just a solid player as a smart, two-way blueliner.

Standing at 6-foot-3, he will get noticed by teams and almost every club should be interested in just getting more depth on the right side, but perhaps the Flyers can really pitch the fact that they have a serious lack of young right-handed defensemen and he could carve out an easy path to regular NHL ice-time.

RW Riese Gaber, North Dakota

Riese Gaber is an undersized winger but skates like the wind and has the puck skills to back up that mobility. A 23-year-old winger out of North Dakota, he has scored at over a point-per-game clip through his last two seasons.

It just takes an NHL team willing to take the risk with someone that is listed at 5-foot-8 and 163 lbs. Gaber can be one of those flashy projects that might not work out well, or could be a talented top-six winger just waiting to be given a chance. Worse case, he takes up a contract spot and lights it up in the minors.

Plus, he has a tendency to just rip it from mid-range.

D Sam Malinski, Cornell

One of the only other college free agent defensemen that is worth a mention is Sam Malinski out of Cornell. At 24 years old, Malinski is just an all-around defenseman that has carved out his game as a blueliner that is good at a whole lot of things but doesn’t shine in one specific area.

Malinski stands a little bit shorter than Livingstone, at 5-foot-11, but can play in all situations and has a good motor to be able to work at a high level. Plus, he’s another right-handed shot and we all know the Flyers could use more of that.

If he signs with Philadelphia there would be, again, an easy path for one of the best defenseman in college hockey today to make a statement at the NHL level. He scored eight goals and 25 points in 29 games this season for Cornell.

F Ryan McAllister, Western Michigan

Ryan McAllister is one of our personal favorites to potentially sign with the Flyers, just because of how damn productive he was in his first year of college hockey.

After the 21-year-old forward was crowned the AJHL’s and CJHL’s MVP last season with the Brooks Bandits, scoring 139 points in 60 games, he made the jump to college hockey and in his freshman year led Western Michigan in scoring with 45 points in 36 games.

He is not tiny like Gaber — McAllister stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs 183 lbs. — but the skating is a potential issue to go with his tremendous set of hands and skill level with the puck. There are obvious concerns that he can be considered a player that plays on the outside of the game, and that his tools won’t translate into professional hockey, but that’s for an NHL team to figure out.

The Flyers have the time to develop this player, and might just be the right opportunity.

D Luke Krys, Brown

And finally, another defenseman. Luke Krys is a 6-foot-2 blueliner that captained Brown this season and scored a healthy 16 points in 30 games for them. Not the most offensive player you will ever watch, but he is probably going to pan out as a defense-first guy that provides nothing but at the top level.

He skates well and has a good motor so there is room to get him there, but again, it will just take the right team to see if the 22-year-old, right-handed defenseman can flower into the player he wants to be.

At worst, he’s a bottom-pairing defenseman that skates well and will work hard.

The NCAA playoffs are continuing this weekend, so we will see more contract action when the teams of these players start to get knocked out and they decide if they want to turn pro.