BOSTON, Mass. -- For Christian Folin, it's more becoming a mattering of when and who, and not if. The 6-foot-3, 22-year-old defenseman for UMass Lowell is considered one of if not the top free agents in all of college hockey. He's had a posse of scouts following him all season after he surprised some, spurning the NHL and returning to Lowell for a second year after a stellar freshman campaign.
In his first year as a collegiate, the skilled Folin tallied six goals and 15 assists, impressing NHL clubs enough to seriously pursue him. But Folin elected to stay for his sophomore season, where he's continued to draw serious interest from the blue line.
The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Philadelphia Flyers are all reportedly in the running to sign the River Hawks' defenseman. Lightning GM Stevie Yzerman was even at the Tsongas Center for Lowell's quarterfinal matchup against Vermont two weeks ago.
"Everyone is looking at him," said an NHL scout who saw Folin play at Boston College Feb. 21.
On Friday night, Folin was in the Bruins' building, with Lowell taking on Notre Dame in the Hockey East semifinals. The Swedish-born defenseman registered a goal and an assist in the game's opening period, as Lowell went on to take down Notre Dame 4-0.
"I just try to keep it simple," said Folin after his two point night. "It's playoff hockey; you just have to keep it simple and move the puck."
A day later, he registered another assist helping the River Hawks to their second-straight Hockey East championship and NCAA tournament birth. In the conference finals, Folin's performance may have been even more impressive, as he shut down a red-hot New Hampshire to top line that had registered 17 points in the four tournament games leading up to the finale.
Along with being very strong in his own end, Folin possesses a pretty heavy, NHL-caliber shot. For evidence, check out this video of him shooting a puck through the net of the Hockey East quarterfinals.
(His head coach Norm Bazin was tempered when asked about the goal, just saying, "Yeah, he's got a good shot. Sometimes that happens when there's a hole in the net.")
With his size, Folin certainly has the stature to play at the NHL-level. He's got a lot of offensive upside that rides on his shot and skating ability. Lowell will be in the NCAA tournament field, meaning Folin will be playing up to another three weeks, depending on how far the River Hawks advance.
"Christian is certainly a very important part in our D-corps," said Bazin. "For us, he gives us some size, he gives us some transition, and he usually gets the puck through."
Of course, Folin has kept his focus on the task at hand, with UMass Lowell trying to get back to the Frozen Four for the second straight year. After Friday night's game against Notre Dame, Folin did acknowledge he'd seen Bob McKenzie's tweet about the unrestricted free agent from earlier that week, but that it hasn't changed his focus.
"It's a lot of fun, especially because [UMass Lowell] went Division 1 in all of its sports last year to this year," said Folin. "It's been a lot of fun on campus, and fun to be a part of."