College hockey has four teams still playing, meaning NHL teams can begin the process of signing players on the other 54 Division I teams.
While some of the players who sign pro contracts are drafted talents like Jamie McBain (Carolina) and Ryan Stoa (Colorado), others are free agents who were -- for various reasons -- overlooked when they were eligible to be drafted. One of the more prominent NHL free agents, Notre Dame senior Christian Hanson, has some very special hockey bloodlines.
Indeed, Hanson's father is Dave Hanson, one of the stars of Slap Shot. Dave Hanson isn't just a movie star who learned how to skate a little bit. He played 10 years of professional hockey, and even got a couple dozen NHL games in.
Now, his 23-year-old son, fresh off a 16-goal senior season with Notre Dame, is on the verge of signing his first pro contract. It appears Christian Hanson is headed for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For Christian Hanson, it's a tough decision. Kids have to weigh offers with potential for getting a shot at the NHL, and decisions are usually made quickly. In this case, Dave Hanson's longtime friendship with Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke may have played a role in the decision.
More significant than that, though, could be the opportunity Christian Hanson has to make the NHL roster, maybe as soon as the end of this season. Let's face it: Toronto stinks. The farm system is thin, and they need more bodies.
Hanson is a big kid who is probably going to be a solid fit as a wing in the pros. He has a good shot and can go to the net, but is not thought of as a grinder type.
The Toronto Star also reports that Burke is in the mix for University of Denver sophomore Tyler Bozak. He missed 21 games because of a knee injury, but Bozak has been widely considered the top non-senior free agent in college hockey. There's a good chance that, wherever he signs, he'll be on the NHL roster in October.
Other college seniors who have moved on this week are Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera and Minnesota-Duluth forward MacGregor Sharp. Both signed deals with the Anaheim Ducks (Mitera was drafted by Anaheim, while Sharp was a free agent), and will report to their American Hockey League affiliate in Iowa.