Chicago Blackhawks’ College Free Agent Successes And Failures

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 01: Tanner Kero
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 01: Tanner Kero /

College free agents are all the rage in today’s NHL, which leads to us taking a look at past successes and failures for the Chicago Blackhawks in that market

With defenseman and former Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher announcing that he will not sign with the Colorado Avalanche and opt for free agency, Chicago Blackhawks fans have gotten excited. The ’Hawks, among other NHL teams, will be in the hunt for Butcher’s services. In addition to being a former NCAA MVP, Butcher is a former national champion.

While Butcher seems to fit the Blackhawks’ style of play and is interested in signing here, he still might not be a big success. Butcher could be a solid NHL player, but there’s always the chance is not going to dramatically change a franchise. College free agents are hit or miss, like all prospects, but they get extra attention because of when they become available.

In my opinion, college free agents are grossly overhyped. Yet every year, I get caught up in the excitement about the Blackhawks possibly signing one of the big-name college free agents.

I was caught up in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes from last year. Vesey spurned Nashville and opted for free agency. People had Vesey penciled in as the replacement for Brandon Saad on the top line if he came to the ’Hawks.

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Vesey signed with New York Rangers instead. He had 27 points last season. Let’s put that in perspective. All the fuss about Vesey’s college numbers translated into 27 NHL points in hisr rookie year.

The hype around Vesey would have led you to believe that he could have produced more on offense. Vesey might eventually be considered an OK college free agent, but he will never be viewed like Adam Oates or Ed Belfour.

Vesey is an example of a college free agent the ’Hawks did not get.  The ’Hawks have signed a few college free agents, and in my opinion only two has been successful in the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era.

Blackhawks’ college free agent failures

This list only includes players college free agents signed in the Kane and Toews era.

Drew LeBlanc

One of the first college free agents the Blackhawks signed during my tenure with Blackhawk Up was Drew LeBlanc. LeBlanc was the 2013 Hobey Baker winner out of Minnesota St. Cloud. LeBlanc was hailed as a good passer and great playermaker coming out of college. He racked up 42 goals and 147 points in 171 college games.

LeBlanc’s tenure with the Blackhawks was spent almost entirely in the AHL with Rockford. LeBlanc appeared in 2 NHL games and 117 AHL games. He is currently in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany. SI Considers LeBlanc one of the worst college free agent signings of all time.

Matt Carey

The ’Hawks signed Carey as a college free agent in 2014. Carey spent one season in college after playing in the OJHL. At St. Lawrence University, Carey had 18 goals and 19 assists.

Carey spent two games with the ’Hawks, even tallying a goal in that time. He then spent the rest of the year in Rockford. After his one season with the ’Hawks, he was not re-signed. Carey has since bounced from the Iowa Wild/Quad City Mallards of the ECHL to the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL.

Kyle Baun

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  • I have written up multiple posts on on Kyle Baun. Baun had a big junior season at Colgate University. He scored 14 goals and 15 assists in his junior year of college.

    Baun signed with the ‘Hawks and appeared in three NHL games in 2014. He started the next season in the NHL after a good training camp. He was on the third line for two games and then was sent back to Rockford.

    He suffered an arm injury that derailed his first full year in the ’Hawks’ system. He spent all of last season at Rockford. He might be in the organization as a depth guy.

    Blackhawks’ college free agent successes

    Trevor van Riemsdyk

    People either loved or hated TVR. I was one of the few people that had once loved and hated TVR. TVR was signed out of the University of New Hampshire. He played in 18 games during his rookie season before he broke his leg against the Dallas Stars.

    He did not return until the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. He appeared in 158 games with the ’Hawks. TVR was lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

    Tanner Kero

    I was on the Tanner Kero bandwagon from the beginning. Kero was a Hobey Baker finalist coming out of Michigan Tech. He has 46 points in his senior year at Michigan Tech. He was signed with the Blackhawks and spent 17 games with the NHL club in 2015-16.

    Last season, he excelled with the ’Hawks. He played in 47 games and had six goals and 10 assists. Kero figures to be in the mix for third- or fourth-line center position next season.

    Next: 3 Keys To Success In 2017-18 Season

    So that is how unpredictable college free agents can be. People thought Baun would be a success, yet he has spent most of his time in the AHL. Nobody predicted Kero would be an NHL regular and here he is. It will be interesting to see how Will Butcher ends up.