As the NCAA ice hockey season starts to wind down, the players who are leaving school – either after a four-year stint or leaving early to go pro ahead of schedule – are starting to have their meetings with NHL clubs.
The players already drafted by teams, such as Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks, have easy decisions to make as they sign with their respective franchises. For the pending undrafted, unrestricted free agents, though, the decision is a little bit more complex – and that often leaves multiple teams in the mix for players like Calgary native Taro Hirose of Michigan State.
Hirose is reportedly considering signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs following his junior season with the Spartans. They are, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, one of the final teams left in the running to ink him to an entry-level deal following his three impressive seasons at Michigan State.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in Calgary, Hirose spent two seasons in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks before heading to Michigan state in 2016.
Since arriving in the NCAA, the undersized, 22-year-old winger has put up a collective 33 goals and 116 points in 106 games, including 15 goals and 50 points in 36 games this year to lead his team in scoring. The older brother of Minnesota State commit Akito Hirose, Taro has been a crucial part of Michigan State’s success starting with his “Outstanding Rookie Award”-winning freshman season.
Hirose is one of the few players of Japanese descent to work his way through the collegiate hockey system, and if he does indeed sign an NHL entry-level deal he’ll become an even bigger rarity.