NCAA-developed free agents have become a big part how teams amass prospect pools in recent years. They don’t get to work with the players as intently over the years, but targeting players with a few extra post-draft years under their belt helped teams zero in on who is likely to translate into a good professional player, and who isn’t worthy of counting towards your 50 signed contracts.

This strategy was already starting to prove itself useful across the league near the beginning of the Salary Cap era, but Brian Burke’s foray in Toronto into college-developed talent, both of his own (Viktor Stalberg, Matt Frattin) and from the open market (Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak), gave the idea a bit of a public eye. Bozak’s blossoming into a Top-6 minute playing NHL forward gave legitimacy to the idea, and ever since, we’ve had big media circuses surrounding the next big maybe every spring and early summer.

Last year, attention was focused Jimmy Vesey (older brother of Nolan), a player originally picked by Nashville that ripped apart the college ranks but sought an opportunity with more ice time. He eventually went to the New York Rangers, a decision that disappointed those in Toronto who wanted to add to the coffers. That’s not to say the Leafs struck out on the college market, though; they instead signed Trevor Moore, who has shown his own sort of promise as he continues his development.

Age 22 (March 31, 1995) Birthplace Thousand Oaks, California
Pos Forward (LH) Drafted Undrafted
Vitals 5’10, 174lbs Acquired Via Free Agency (2016)

Moore’s side was likely a large reason why he didn’t get a draft nod in his Age 17 season. That year, the youngster scored 63 points in 62 games, good for 13th in USHL scoring, with only one other 1995-born player above him. Putting that season into context, Moore was 10 points behind present-day Penguins sensation Jake Guentzel that year, though Guentzel also led his own team in scoring by 32.

His team was likely of little help either; Tri-City finished third last in the league, last in the conference, and ended up having a grand total of zero drafted players come out of their roster. All of this meant no immediate prospects of an NHL career, so his college journey began.

The results were immense. His first year saw him make the NCHC All-Rookie team, thanks in no small part to the fact that he led the University of Denver in scoring and to a championship in their conference. The following season, he finished Top 20 in the nation in both goals and in points per game and was named the NCHC’s forward of the year and was named to the NCAA West Second All-American team, with the likes of Dylan Larkin and Colton Parayko.

Moore didn’t see through his full four years, though; he’d take one more spin through the conference, once again an over point-per-game effort, before signing with the Leafs last summer.

15  2010-11  Los Angeles Selects HC U16  T1EHL U16 35 19 22 41 47
16  2011-12  Tri-City Storm  USHL 49 12 20 32 14.5 6 -3
17  2012-13  Tri-City Storm  USHL 62 20 43 63 22.5 26 -20
18  2013-14  Univ. of Denver  NCAA 42 14 18 32 26.9 14 15
19  2014-15  Univ. of Denver  NCAA 39 22 22 44 31.3 7 19
20  2015-16  Univ. of Denver  NCAA 40 11 33 44 32.1 8 16
21  2016-17  Toronto Marlies  AHL 57 13 20 33 22.3 18 9

At first glance, Moore’s season looks like a bit of a regression from his college performances. In a sense, that’s true, but a few things are worth keeping in mind.

Firstly, the start of Moore’s season was decidedly slow. Some of that comes from adjustment, some of it comes from a week or so of injury recovery keep-up after getting hurt in December and returning 11 games later, but a lot comes from usage as well. Until early January, Moore was sent out sparingly at even strength, often being attached to veteran players like Colin Greening, Brooks Laich, Rich Clune, and Marc-Andre Cliche.

In late January, Moore was placed with Byron Froese and Seth Griffith, and both rode and contributed to their wave to become one of the most effective scoring lines in the league. This led to a 19 point in 17-game run for Moore, who found all sorts of chemistry with Griffith, to the point that swapping in Colin Greening for Froese after the latter was traded to Tampa Bay didn’t really slow them down all that much. Moore went through a bit of a cool-down period once again after being slotted in different positions throughout the lineup but managed to make himself into a reliable enough utility player to keep getting looked at as the team barreled towards the finish line.

Prospect-Stats estimates that Moore ended his season with the 7th highest primary points per 60 on the team at 1.44, and the 5th highest if you include secondary assists at 2.03. This made him an above-average second line talent in the AHL last year, despite his deployment averaging out into third line minutes.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
163 (13/31) 43 (6/31) 27.5% (12/31) 33.7 (10/31) 9.3 (9/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

Players of Moore’s ilk have become increasingly more common over the years, as teams chase “free wallets” and allow for their support players to ride out their education as long as they please to avoid contract risks. A player like Moore has a better chance of a notable NHL career than most, even while not having the physical stature that teams normally tend to target.

Moore’s strongest asset is his creativity as a playmaker. He’s not afraid to hold onto the puck and wait for the right moment to send it to his teammates, but isn’t much of a shooter himself, so pairing him with a triggerman is often key to him finding success. As such, it’s no shock that Froese was his most compatible centre last year; his shot works wonders at the AHL level and Moore was able to give him space to use it.

The Upcoming Year

Moore will be returning to the Toronto Marlies this year, and realistically speaking, should continue to get his opportunities throughout. I wonder about who his presumed even-strength linemates will be; he spent a lot of time with Colin Greening last year, but the veteran is expected to go back to left wing now that Toronto is no longer in need of a makeshift centre. I mentioned a potential linkup of Dmytro Timashov and Ben Smith in Timashov’s post; perhaps Moore could be the piece that fully closes off that line.

Another option would be to keep one’s eyes peeled on recent history; Moore played in the rookie tournament on a line with Jean Dupuy and Jeremy Bracco, two players who are both also slotted to play on the Marlies.

Long-Term Outlook

I think Moore could theoretically find himself in some NHL games down the line, but if that’s the case, they likely won’t be here, and even if the talent is there, his size will probably limit him from getting a long-term opportunity. More likely, he’ll spend most of his time as a first or second line calibre AHLer, ready for a call-up when need be.

With that said, he’s got enough talent that one more push while he still has time on the clock could get him a decent reward in another organization.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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