Report: Toronto Interested in Acquiring NCAA Prospect Zach Hyman

You can always count on at least one of Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts to be a juicy rumour about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In today’s post, Friedman waited until his final thought to reveal that Toronto appears to be interested in the Florida Panthers’ Zach Hyman

30. Finally, circled back around Zach Hyman, the Michigan forward who informed Florida he will become an unrestricted free agent in August. Normally, teams don’t try to trade for this kind of player, knowing they can get him for free in a little more than two months. But there does appear to be some interest (maybe to wine-and-dine him in advance, who knows?) from the likes of Detroit, San Jose and Toronto, among others. No doubt the Panthers would love to get a pick out of it, if possible.

Hyman, who will turn 23 on June 9th, was a breakout star for the Wolverines this year. The 6’1, 191lb centre exploded with 22 goals and 54 points in 37 games after putting up only 35 points in his first three seasons at the University of Michigan. Hyman finished fourth in the nation with 1.46 points-per-game, earning himself a Hobey Baker nomination.

It’s easy to see why the Leafs would be interested in Hyman, especially since he’s a hometown kid (wait, how does Don Cherry feel about Toronto-born college hockey players?). Toronto needs to add as much young talent to their system, and Hyman fits the bill. That being said, history tells us that there are plenty of NCAA forwards who go off in their Senior year and never parlay that into success at the next level (and the best players to come out of the NCAA rarely, if ever, make it to their Senior year).

Applying the Canucks Army guys’ Prospect Cohort Success model to Hyman, we find that only 15% of comparable players (college forwards of similar age, scoring rate and height) have gone on to have meaningful NHL careers. Jeff Halpern and John Madden are the most “recent”, “high end” comparables; the list is largely made up of guys who never played an NHL game. You’ll just have to trust me on this number until Josh W and his team are ready to release their PCS% tool to the public.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be impressed by Hyman’s season – we should. What it means is that Toronto probably shouldn’t be giving up anything short of a very late round pick just for opportunity to speak to Hyman. And if all works out in negotiations, Toronto also shouldn’t be expecting much more than a replacement-level offensive player. Anything more would be a steal.

College free agents, even previously drafted ones, are always extremely unpredictable. If Toronto decided to pass on Hyman, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. That said, taking a run at University of Minnesota defenceman Mike Reilly, a former Columbus draft pick, sounds like it would be a lot of fun.