Every year we see teams sign free agents who have just finished college. Sometimes these are players who didn't sign with the team that drafted them other times they are undrafted players.
These players tend to be low risk, high reward. You aren't using a draft pick, it costs you just money and a contract spot. These signings rarely are game-changers, though the players can go on to have long and productive NHL careers.
Earlier this year the Arizona Coyotes signed one of those undrafted college players, forward Nate Sucese.
Nate Sucese - 24
League: NCAA (Penn State University)
Games played: 57
Highest rating: 22
Lowest rating: 24
Sucese is a 24-year-old left wing from Fairport, NY who has spent the past four years with Penn State University. He is similar in size to Clayton Keller, standing at 5'9" and weighing 174 pounds according to Elite Prospects.
In his final season in the NCAA, Sucese led his team in assists (27) and points (38). This was his first time leading his team in points, although he has been in the top five in scoring for the entirety of his college career.
In his 147 games with Penn State over four years, Sucese put up big numbers. He leads Penn State players in career goals (61) and points (140).
Sucese is one of five players that Corey Pronman noted has NHL potential. He says of the winger:
Sucese was a top player in college last season. He’s a slick playmaker who is very creative with the puck. He’s small and a good but not amazing skater though.
After four years at Penn State, Sucese is set to make his professional debut. Sucese signed a one-year entry-level contract this past March and seemed poised to join the Tucson Roadrunners. We are still waiting to see what will happen with the AHL season, but when it starts Sucese is a player to watch.
As a smaller player, Sucese is likely going to take some time adjusting to the professional game. In the past fans have called for grittier forwards to "protect" their smaller, more skilled players. If Sucese spends time in the NHL next season, a big if, at this point, this will be less of a concern as the team added some great during the offseason.
The Coyotes do not have a good history of drafting and developing players. The Coyotes didn't draft Sucese, but they are going to be the ones developing him. Sucese is signed to one year which should give him plenty of opportunities to prove he is worth an extension and a raise.