By Brandon J. Koch
A Hobey Baker winner has hit the open market.
Defenseman Will Butcher is the biggest college free agent after rejecting the Colorado Avalanche. Butcher had a very nice four-year career at the University of Denver, leading the Pioneers to a championship in his senior season.
He will visit with the Buffalo Sabres, New jersey Devils and the Las Vegas Golden Knights, as well as other teams who will have interest.
To give Sabres fans some information on who Will Butcher is, here is my Q&A with Denver Post columnist Mike Chambers. He is hockey writer for the Avs and Denver Pioneers Men’s Ice Hockey.
Q: Where did it go wrong with Butcher and the Avs?
A: “When Patrick Roy was head coach and vice president in the spring of 2016, he had an executive contact Butcher’s agents and tell them the Avs had no interest signing him. Roy didn’t want another undersized D. Butcher and his camp didn’t understand why the NHL team would tell him this during his junior season, in which he was an All-American. So the player wasn’t happy with the team, which then took a beating en route to a club-worst 48-point season. Bottom line, Butcher and his agents/family were turned off by the Avalanche’s business model and understood the player could become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 16.”
Q:What are his strengths?
A: “Vision, puck management, leadership. And he can quarterback a power play.”
Q: What does he need to get better at?
A: “Skating. He doesn’t have the best stride. He might lose too many foot races in the NHL. But a lot of people said the same things about Paul Stastny.”
Q: What is his NHL ceiling?
reach 100 NHL games.”
Q: Can he play in the NHL this fall or does he need more time to develop?
A: “Difficult to determine right now. I don’t think he’s opposed to being groomed in the NHL; he’s only 22.”
Q: What is he looking for out of these meetings?
A: “The meetings will begin with conference calls. I was told Butcher will probably visit the teams his is most interested in. Obviously, he’s looking for the right fit — the systems, coaching, etc. — and probably first-round money (he was a fifth-round pick in 2013).”
Q: Who do you think he will end up signing with?
A: “I’m sure Butcher would like to play for Phil Housley, who knows much about the player from U.S. World Junior circles (Butcher was a two-time participant, including 2015 with Jack Eichel). So Buffalo is intriguing. I’m sure he’d like to get in the exciting Vegas system and the Devils could give him maximum money and a good opportunity. I think the Blackhawks, Penguins and Rangers could make a push.”
Q: Have you heard anything in regards to Buffalo being a possible trade suitor for Matt Duchene?
A: “Not really. That storyline has veered on for months. By now, I think every team has been linked to Duchene.”
Q: Where can fans find you on Twitter?