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Islanders: Four NCAA free agents team should chase

LOWELL, MA - FEBRUARY 13: Marc McLaughlin #25 of the Boston College Eagles skates against the Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks during NCAA men's hockey at the Tsongas Center on February 13, 2021 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The Eagles won 4-3. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
LOWELL, MA - FEBRUARY 13: Marc McLaughlin #25 of the Boston College Eagles skates against the Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks during NCAA men's hockey at the Tsongas Center on February 13, 2021 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The Eagles won 4-3. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders prospect pool isn’t what you’d call deep. There’s some talent there but there isn’t enough of it. Which is something you probably already know if you’ve read any of the cross-league prospects reports or rankings that have been done by outlets like the Athletic (subscription required).

The Islanders system consistently ranks poorly across the NHL.

So, in an attempt to bring in more talent to the organization, here’s a look at four free agents who just completed either their junior or senior year in the college ranks.

Five NCAA free agents that should interest New York Islanders

Marc McLaughlin C | Boston College (Junior)

On a team loaded with NHL talent – like Matt Boldy, Alex Newhook, and goalie Spence Knight – McLaughlin was the team captain. Which is already a big selling point for the Islanders.

In his junior year, he was second behind Boldy in points with 24 (10 goals and 14 helpers) in 24 games. Doubling his return from last year in ten fewer games.

If he were in the Isles system he’d rank 22nd. One below Simon Holmstrom.

Note: He and Oliver Wahlstrom were teammates back in 18-19.

Joseph Nardi LW | Northern Michigan University (Senior)

In four years at Northern Michigan Nardi has accumulated 99 points in 149 games. This year, Nardi put up his best year scoring 12 goals and 33 points over 29 games. Yet another captain, his pushed his team to the WCHA championship game where they eventually lost 6-3 to Lake Superior.

He’s not particularly tall, standing 5’10” but he’s a quick skater and a tenacious winger. He’s the type of player the Isles like to add to their roster.

Nardi doesn’t play in a particularly tough conference so his ranking wouldn’t be very high compared to the rest of the Islanders prospects. But he’s someone the Isles should consider to increase the talent in their prospect pool for 2021-22.

Nick Blankenburg D | Michigan (Junior)

Blankenburg is a good skating defenseman with offensive upside. That latter part of his game makes a lot of sense when you consider that he used to be forward. He only made the switch to defense a few years ago (2016).

In three years playing for UM, he’s put up a solid 39 points over 95 games.

Again, undersized (5’9″, 161lbs), but he’s got a ton of potential. What better place to learn how to be a professional defenseman than with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers?

He’d rank just above defenseman Matias Rajaniemi in the Islanders prospect pool if he were to step in today. I’m sure he stays with Michigan for one more year, but this is a player the Isles should absolutely keep tabs on.

Strauss Mann G | Michigan (Junior)

Michigan goalie Strauss Mann has been an outstanding shot-stopper for some time now. Last year, the Connecticut native put up a 0.939SV% and 1.85GAA over 35 games. This year, in 21 games, Mann holds an 11-9-1 record while averaging a 0.930SV% and 1.89GAA.

The Islanders aren’t looking for an NHL goalkeeper, but getting Mann would add some quality to the system and give Jakub Skarek a bit more competition for starts.

Oh, and Mann is the team captain. You know, cause the Isles like that kind of thing. A lot.

Just like Blankenburg, Mann is a Junior so he could very well stay another year. If the Islanders can’t tempt him this year, they have to keep trying. With Mitch Korn at the helm of the Islanders goaltending division, this could be a win-win for both the Islanders and Mann.

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