Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Every spring, rumors and speculation start to come out about the top collegiate seniors in the country. Will they sign with the teams who drafted them, or will they wait until August and become free agents? Every year we hear about players who could make an impact right away, whether it is Tyler Bozak, Justin Schultz, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, Alexander Kerfoot or Will Butcher. Some were never drafted; others never signed.

This year is quite the same, and one name that will immediately pop out is that of David Pope. Pope is in his final season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he has 38 points in 28 games and looks like he’s finally coming into his own physically. The Detroit Red Wings drafted him in the fourth round in 2013, and it seems like he’s destined to stay there.

Speaking with Craig Custance of The Athletic (subscription required), Pope was quite clear on his intention to sign with the Red Wings.

As of right now, I’m 100 percent set on going to Detroit.

Pope would have the same opportunity that Kerfoot, Butcher and others did last season and could wait until the middle of August to become an unrestricted free agent. If he’s to sign with Detroit though, there are a pair of options.

One, he could sign an entry-level contract with the Red Wings starting in 2018-19 and then appear in some AHL contests down the stretch this season on an amateur tryout contract. Many prospects go this way, including Northeastern’s Zachary Aston-Reese, who signed his two-year entry-level deal with the Penguins on March 17 but played 10 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the end of the season on an ATO. Now up in Pittsburgh, Aston-Reese’s ELC actually kicked in this season will still be effective next year.

Two, a route sometimes used by prized free agents coming out of college, is to leverage their pending league-wide availability into a contract right away, burning a year and getting closer to restricted free agency. That method was used by Mike Vecchione last season, who signed his entry-level deal, played just two games with Philadelphia and earned a two-year, one-way contract as a restricted free agent this summer. Vecchione was in a slightly different situation because he was undrafted and therefore could immediately sign with anyone upon leaving college, whereas Pope will have to wait until August.

In Pope’s case, since his two-year entry-level deal will be signed as a 23-year-old regardless of the date it is actually inked — ELC’s take your age as of Sept. 15 of the calendar year it is signed in — he could technically burn a year off of it by forcing the Red Wings to sign him for this season like Vecchione. While there is no evidence he would attempt this, it’s certainly something to think about from the Red Wings point of view.

Either way, Pope will certainly be on Detroit’s radar in the coming months. The young forward is another talented winger who could help in a quick rebuild by the Red Wings and certainly has a chance at being an NHL player before long. As Custance writes, a stint in the AHL is expected, the only question is whether that will be this season for the Red Wings or next year for someone else.

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This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

PLAYERS: David Pope
TEAMS: Detroit Red Wings
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