As the NCAA hockey season comes to an end, high-end college players have begun signing with NHL teams. Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals, may be soon to join that class when his college season ends.
For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick primer on the NHL draft system. Teams draft most players when they’re 18 years old and then, depending on where the players go on to play, retain their rights for a certain amount of time afterward. For NCAA prospects, that window lasts until August 15 of the year their class graduates college. Up to that point, they can only sign for the NHL team that owns their rights; after that point, they become unrestricted free agents.
That’s where Priskie, one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as NCAA MVP, finds himself. The talented blue liner is nearing the end of his senior year at fifth-ranked Quinnipiac, meaning his draft rights will expire this summer. Priskie is considered a prime candidate to test the free agent waters rather than signing with the Caps.
Priskie has developed into a valuable prospect in the Caps’ pipeline. A two-year captain at QU, the 6-footer has posted 116 points in 152 NCAA games, including 39 points in 34 games so far this season. Priskie is a two-way defenseman with good skating ability and offensive upside, even at the NHL level. Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold lavishes praise on Priskie for his character, work ethic, and leadership ability.
In most situations, drafted college players like Priskie can be signed as early as the end of their college seasons, which in Priskie’s case will likely come at some point in the NCAA tournament in early April. The Caps organization, however, hit the organizational maximum of 50 contracts at the trade deadline by bringing in Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen, meaning they cannot sign any more players until free agency. Without the lure of an NHL playoff run, the Caps will have an even harder time keeping Priskie away from unrestricted free agency.
From Priskie’s perspective, one can see why it’s attractive to wait until the summer. A prospect of his caliber will have his pick of 15+ NHL teams. At many of them, he will have a chance to crack the NHL roster next year. The Caps have much of their blue line locked up for the next few years and tons of organizational depth at defenseman with Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen, Alexander Alexeyev, Connor Hobbs, and more. Priskie will immediately contend for an NHL spot, but it would be easier to earn real time elsewhere.
The Caps will certainly pursue Priskie aggressively to sign him before the August 15 deadline passes. Caps fans should hope they succeed.
Photo credit: Quinnipiac Hockey
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