NHL NEWS: Ducks sign Laganiere, Oilers sign Miller.

Yale wins the Frozen Four Championship.  Image courtesy of USA Today.

Yale wins the Frozen Four Championship. Image courtesy of USA Today.

I realise I’m a few days behind on this, but hey!  A couple of NCAA free agent signings today by Anaheim and Edmonton, read on for more information.

ANTOINE LAGANIERE

Antoine Laganiere of Yale. Image courtesy of Hockey's Future.

Antoine Laganiere of Yale. Image courtesy of Hockey’s Future.

As per the Anaheim Ducks, the team has signed former Yale center Antoine Laganiere to a 2-year entry level contract.

Laganiere was one of the most sought after NCAA free agents this summer, particularly after the team’s first NCAA title, and at 6’5″ 214lbs it’s not hard to see why.  The man is a monster, but a monster with a good skill set.  Whilst he didn’t light the NCAA on fire, prospect guru Corey Pronman had this to say about Laganiere:

He’s a big man who protects the puck well and will lay the body on the forecheck to win battles. He also has pretty good puck skills for a bigger player. Laganiere regularly shows good hand-eye coordination with the puck and can flash some impressive creativity.

The main issue with the 22 going on 23 year old forward is his skating. He’s a bit of a lumbering skater with a stride that doesn’t look pretty. Seeing that issue in a big forward is not unusual, but it makes me question what his ultimate upside is. I’m also not convinced he has above-average vision, more of just the average variety, but other scouts would disagree on that front. If you do disagree, Laganiere projects as a top six forward, but in my eyes he probably ends up a good third line winger. He may be able to step into the NHL right away.

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter in my eyes (Sam may disagree) if he doesn’t turn into a top 6 forward, the Ducks have such a good top 6 that it doesn’t really matter.  I feel they need better bottom 6 players to shore up their depth there, but if Laganiere does grow into a scoring forward then so much the better – the team will need replacements for Selanne and Koivu sooner or later, and a man-giant is a nice piece to have waiting.  It’ll be really interesting to see how he adjusts to NHL play.

ANDREW MILLER

Andrew Miller, image courtesy of examiner.com.

Andrew Miller, image courtesy of examiner.com.

As per the Edmonton Oilers, the team has signed Yale center Andrew Miller to a 1-year entry level contract.  A team-mate of Laganiere’s for the past 4 years, Miller is almost the exact opposite type of player, standing at just 5’8″ (or 5’10” depending on what you read) and 170lbs, he is an offensively skilled speedy playmaker.  He captained Yale to their first ever NCAA title, and was named the MVP of the Frozen Four tournament.

More from Pronman:

The 24 year old center is a classic small, skilled college player. Miller displays above-average qualities in terms of his speed, puck skills and overall offensive instincts. In his Senior season especially he showed the ability to consistently create scoring chances and keep the play flowing in the right direction.

The concerns I would have with Miller are firstly his physical game. He’s a 5′9′’ forward and although he does work hard, I’m not convinced he has the necessary grit and physical qualities to be anything more than replacement level in that area in the pro game. With Miller you also wonder if he has enough offensive talent, meaning if he’s dynamic or merely good, to overcome his size. I see reasonable arguments for and against him on that issue depending on which night you saw him.

Given his advanced age we will probably know sooner rather than later if Miller will be able to succeed at the pro level. While there is a chance he could be ok as an NHL player, I would also advise a wait and see approach with him.

This is an interesting signing for the Oilers.  They have been much maligned for their lack of size and “grit”, and here they go signing one of the smallest free agents available.  To be honest though, I don’t have a problem with it.  It adds depth to the organisation, and very few of the Oiler prospects in the AHL have been scoring well – fellow midgets Toni Rajala and Mark Arcobello are the only two managing to score at a decent clip.  If he makes it as an NHLer, great, he could even be the next Martin St Louis (somewhat unlikely, of course); if he doesn’t, which is obviously – no disrespect to him, it’s the same with almost all college free agents – far more likely an outcome, then we move on.  I like the sound of what he can bring though, he sounds like a good hockey player.  If he can overcome the size issue, there’s nothing really holding him back.

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