Columbus signed goaltender Shawn Hunwick for the rest of this season. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
With their collegiate seasons coming to a close, the Jackets signed a pair of college prospects today- center Sean Collins and goaltender Shawn Hunwick.
Collins is a former Columbus draft pick, taken in the seventh round in 2008. He played four seasons at Cornell, developing into an offensive leader for the Big Red in his senior year. He's known for his defensive ability, however, as he was a go-to penalty killer with above-average faceoff ability. He'll be going pro next season, ticketed for either Springfield of the AHL or Chicago of the ECHL. He projects to be a checking line center, but whether or not he has NHL potential remains to be seen. Columbus has had some success with some late-round college players, namely Cam Atkinson and recently-moved Grant Clitsome.
As for Hunwick, you must know his story by now. Last night he was signed to a tryout contract to be a warm body on the bench behind starter Allen York. This move was necessary after Steve Mason was injured in practice yesterday morning. Hunwick is more than a warm body though- he was a Hobey Baker finalist, one of ten prospects up for the top award in NCAA hockey. This afternoon the three "Hobey Hat Trick" finalists were named, and though he was not one of the three finalists, he remained a hot commodity given his success between the pipes at Michigan. His contract only takes him to the end of this season however, but signing him to an extended contract this summer is a possibility.
The Collins signing came as a bit of a surprise for me personally, but he must have shown enough to the brass that they decided to give him a contract. Other college draftees that need to be signed by Columbus this summer are Jake Hansen, Trent Vogelhuber and Will Weber. Hansen's Minnesota Golden Gophers squad is still active in the NCAA tournament, and I believe there's a good chance he'll be signed as well. He's an offensive forward, and a former third round pick. As for Vogelhuber and Weber, the latter is a virtual lock to get a contract while Vogelhuber will likely get nothing more than an invite to camp. He was a nice story, Mr. Anonymous and the first player drafted out of central Ohio back in 2007 (the year Columbus hosted the draft) but he hasn't shown enough to earn a pro contract at this point.
Overall, the Hunwick signing is great for organizational depth (providing he gets a new deal this summer), while it remains to be seen what Collins can offer at the pro level.