Monday, February 9, 2015

Upcoming NCAA Free Agents - Daniel Ciampini, Union College Dutchmen

In this new segment, I'm going to be looking at impending Unrestricted Free Agents coming from the NCAA. These are mostly juniors and seniors who have not been drafted by an NHL team and could directly be signed by a team (although it can sometimes be sophomores as well). Each year brings a new crop of NHL-ready players, or just about, from the schools around the country. Many are signed to entry-level contracts and either jump directly to the NHL, or are sent to the AHL affiliates.

(Image rights are property of Union College)
For each segment I will take a look at a specific player that looks to be an upcoming free agent this offseason. Today we look a Union College's forward, Daniel Ciampini. The 24 year old is in his senior year at Union and will most likely look to sign with an NHL team in the offseason. In fact, Ciampini will probably be one of the most sought-after free agents, as he is currently leading the entire league in goals and is second in points (only by 1 to Jack Eichel of Boston University).

Ciampini's position is listed as "Forward" on his Elite Prospects Page, but from what I've seen of him, he plays mainly as a Right Wing. He stands at 5'11" and 185 pounds, and will have to build more muscle to his frame if he wants to play in the NHL, especially if he wants to play his game. I will elaborate on his game below.

 Looking further at his page, one can't help but notice his impressive statistic line. So far in 28 games this season, Ciampini has scored 42 points (23G 19A). As mentioned above, he leads the NCAA in goals scored and is 2nd overall in points scored. The most promising sign is that Ciampini has made progress throughout all 4 years at Union. Last season he had a point per game pace, scoring 41 points (23G 18A) in 41 games and the year before saw him score 21 points (11G 10A) in 36 games.

While the numbers don't say everything, Ciampini's are very promising and show that he has the ability to improve himself with experience.

Ciampini is probably best known for his hat trick in the frozen four semi-final match against Boston College to send the Dutchmen to the National Championship in 2014. Let's take a look at those goals.

(Ciampini is #17 in the Garnet colored jerseys)

Ciampini's goals are at 3:31, 5:15 (PP), and at 8:15 (EN), but I linked the beginning of the entire video because I want to point out that Ciampini does more than score goals for Union, and you can see that pretty well from his positioning and role on the team. You'll notice his game in the offensive zone is to immediately park himself in front of the opposing goaltender. From here he'll look for either tip-ins or rebounds to score. This is how he scored his first 2 goals of the game.

However, that's not the only way he scores goals. With less than 10 seconds to go, Ciampini makes a move around Penn State defenseman and then the goalie to score the game-winning goal.

(Goal is at 4:33)

Nice hands.

Defensively, Ciampini is pretty responsible in his own end, enough to play on the penalty kill. Although that could be for the threat of scoring a short-handed goal, like he did against Boston University earlier this year. As seen below. His positioning in the offensive zone is excellent, he just needs to work on his defensive zone positioning more to even out his 200 foot game. The good thing is that this can be taught, whereas offensive instinct and a "nose for the net" cannot truly be taught.

(The goal is around the 5:38 mark)
Ciampini makes a good play blocking the pass from the point and creating a breakaway for himself.

Also a good thing is Ciampini's ability to make plays while moving at relatively high speeds, as seen with his assist on the Powerplay around the 7:24 mark of the video against Boston University.

In late January, Ciampini lead Union College to win the Mayor's Cup by beating RPI by a score of 8-3. Ciampini had 3 goals and 3 assists that game.

So all in all, if a NHL team were to sign, or were looking to sign Ciampini, what would they be getting? This is my analysis:


-Nose for the net
-Good forechecker
-Able to score "greasy goals" around the net
-Experience playing in high-pressure games
-Good positioning in the offensive zone, makes himself known on every offensive shift
-Plays top line minutes on a very offensively-sound team
-Power play and Penalty kill experience


-Needs to move his feet more in the defensive zone, can be sometimes seen loafing back
-Needs to add more muscle in order to play his game in front of the net (will come in time), so he doesn't get pushed around
-Will his game translate to the NHL?


I can see Ciampini's ceiling as a 2nd line scoring winger. His play style reminds me of a combination of Brendan Gallagher (of the Montreal Canadiens) in that he's a relatively small forward that crashes the net on the rush, and a smaller Steve Bernier (of the New Jersey Devils) in that his role in sustained offensive possession or on the Power play is to park himself in front of the opposing goalie looking for screens, tip-ins, and rebounds.

Any team that is short on RW prospects should definitely give this guy a look, as well as a team that wants a good player for a boost in secondary scoring in their lineup.

Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for improvement or if there is a player you'd like me to look at, please let me know. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more articles!

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