Sharks sign top college free agent Collin Graf to 3-year contract

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Collin Graf, one of the most heavily pursued undrafted college hockey players in the country, has left Quinnipiac and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks, the team announced Thursday.

The Sharks will burn the first year of the free agent’s contract and Graf will report immediately to San Jose.

Graf, 21, a native of Lincoln, Mass., played a big role in Quinnipiac’s NCAA title run last spring and was the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year this season, scoring 22 goals and 49 points in 34 games. After transferring to Quinnipiac following his freshman year at Union, Graf scored 21 goals and 59 points in 41 games in 2022-23 and was a Hobey Baker Top 10 finalist.

The right-shot forward is again a Hobey Baker Top 10 finalist this year, but Quinnipiac’s aspirations of repeating as NCAA champs ended March 31 in overtime to Boston College.

In 112 collegiate games, Graf had 54 goals and 130 points. He was pursued by roughly 25 NHL teams. About three weeks ago, he cut the list to six finalists and held Zoom calls with those teams. Earlier this week, he met with each of the teams again before trimming his list of suitors to one. At least one of the finalists, according to league sources, was the Minnesota Wild.

Burning the first year of the deal was not Graf’s priority. He wanted to go to a team he could see himself playing for long-term, not just five or six games down the stretch. Along with agent Jerry Buckley, he went through every finalist with a fine-tooth comb to review depth charts, prospect pools, draft picks, coaching styles, management and which teams may have a dearth of right-shot forwards.

Graf is a unique college free agent just because of his offensive upside. While most college free agent forwards will end up in a bottom six or have careers as tweeners between the NHL and AHL, Graf is a skilled forward who has blossomed since he was a teenager.

One reason scouts say he wasn’t drafted in the mid to late rounds was his size. As a 17-year-old, Graf was 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds. Now he’s 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds.

“He’s always had the skill and hockey sense, but people didn’t draft him because he was undersized and had already made that book on him that, ‘He’s too small, he’s too small,’” a league source said.

Said a Western Conference scout, “He’s an excellent offensive player. Smart, skilled and creative. Point producer in college and the power play ran through him. He’s not a good skater and so far lacks two-way details.”

Graf was a center growing up in junior and at Union but played mostly wing at Quinnipiac.

Pronman’s scouting report

Graf, The Athletic’s top college, CHL or European free agent, was a major part of Quinnipiac’s NCAA title run last spring and has been a top player in the country again this season. He has a ton of offensive talent and has the potential to score in the NHL. He is a very skilled puckhandler who skates well and can create on the move like a pro. He sees the ice well, can run a power play with quick decisions and has a good shot.

Graf’s game can lack physicality at times and stick too much to the perimeter, which is my only concern about him, but I wouldn’t call him soft or a low-compete type. He is a player a lot of NHL teams were interested in, and he could be a legit middle-six wing in the league.  — Corey Pronman, senior NHL writer

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(Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

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