The end of the NCAA regular season has brought some of the NHL's top college prospects that much closer to the pro ranks. The NCAA free agent crop could be one of the best in several years, but there are plenty of notable already-drafted prospects as well. Now, much like Chris Kreider last season, there are several key names throughout the college ranks who are either close or potentially ready to make the jump to the NHL. It doesn't mean they'll turn pro and join the big club for this season, but based on my discussions with industry sources and my own observations, here is a look at some of the top NCAA prospects close to making an impact in the NHL.
Acquired: C/W Johan Larsson, G Matt Hackett, Minnesota's first round pick in 2013 and 2nd round pick in 2014; St Louis' 2nd round pick and conditional 5th round pick in 2013. Los Angeles' 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015
Traded: W Jason Pominville, D Robyn Regehr, D Jordan Leopold
Larsson was Minnesota's second-round pick in 2010 and was the top scoring U20 player in the Swedish Elite League last season as well as that league's rookie of the year. He has been good in the AHL this season, with scouts saying he has displayed good play in both ends. He's a smart, hard-working player who may not be blessed with a ton of skill but his very good offensive instincts could potentially make him an above-average regular in the NHL. Hackett is a decent goalie prospect with good athletic skills who became more expendable for Minnesota with the great play of fellow young goaltender Darcy Kuemper.