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College players will have an impact on 2021 NHL finish

Liam McHugh, Dominic Moore and Mike Babcock unveil this week's NHL Power Rankings, where the New York Islanders are surging after the Trade Deadline and the Avs have a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot.

Zac Jones should make his NHL debut sometime soon after winning a national title with UMass this weekend. The defender signed a three-year deal with the New York Rangers a few days later, and they already said he’d burn a year to play this season.

It’s the time of year where lots of college players are making the transition from campus sites to the NHL, whether they be NCAA free agents or signing with the team that drafted them. As we’ve seen in the last five years, between Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox and Cale Makar and more, plenty are ready to make that leap right off the bat.

Cole Caufield with Montreal is a leading candidate to get an opportunity at the NHL in the next few weeks. He’s already gotten off to a hot start with Laval in the AHL after winning the Hobey Baker at Wisconsin.

There’s more than just Caufield, though, who could affect the playoff race. Here’s three more players to watch in the next few weeks, including the newest Rangers signing.

Zac Jones, New York Rangers

As mentioned, Jones is expected to join the Rangers soon. The defenseman was an integral part of winning a national title with UMass.

He officially signed an entry level deal with the Rangers on Tuesday afternoon, a deal that costs $832,500 against the cap.

Jones was a third rounder in 2019, and finished two seasons at UMass with 47 points in 61 games along with making the Hockey East all rookie team as a freshman and being named an All American this season. He had a strong season where he scored 52 points in 56 games with the Tri-City Storm before joining the Minutemen.

He began practicing with the Rangers on Tuesday though there’s no timetable when he’ll get action. He could start with AHL Hartford, but all indications are they want to see him in the NHL soon.

David Farrance, Nashville

Farrance was the best offensive defenseman in the country this season with Boston University. He also is another former Terrier in the pipeline to Nashville, joining current Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro and Preds draft pick Patrick Harper.

He’s played just one game so far, being shuffled along the taxi squad, and the addition of Erik Gudbranson might make it tougher to get consistent time. Farrance, though, has the ability to open a game offensively from the backend when he does get an opportunity.

A 2017 third rounder, in limited time due to a condensed schedule, Farrance posted five goals and 11 assists in 11 games with Boston University this season.

Matt Boldy, Minnesota

Boldy had a strong season with Boston College and it might be a matter of time before he gets a chance at the NHL.

In his debut with Iowa of the AHL, Boldy tallied a goal and an assist. It happened to come on the same night the Wild dropped a contest 9-1.

Minnesota didn’t make any deadline additions, so it’s possible Boldy is that guy for them. They’re in a playoff position and it’s unlikely they drop out of it, so the 2019 first rounder might end up filling the role of an acquisition after all.


Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.