Harvard doesn’t often send many athletes into professional sports. But the freshmen of the Crimson men’s hockey team are on their way to bucking that trend.
Of the nine freshman listed on the Harvard roster, five have already been drafted by NHL teams—four in June’s 2011 amateur draft, and one in 2010.
With one of the strongest recruiting classes in recent memory coupled with key losses from the class of 2010, the Crimson may rely heavily on its group of rookies.
It was a transition two years in the making. Harvard began recruiting this year’s batch of freshmen when they were juniors in high school, but the Crimson could not have anticipated the success that it would have in bringing talent to Cambridge. Harvard is just one of three college teams to bring in four 2011 NHL draftees in its freshman class this year.
“I think we’re excited because we brought in some very good prospects,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “I guess we have as many people drafted by the National Hockey League as any team in college hockey … The other side of that is, I once heard that ‘prospect’ just means you haven’t done anything yet, so I think that it’ll be a challenge getting everyone on the same page.”
Since day one, the corps of talented freshmen have worked off of each other—both on and off the rink.
Of the drafted freshmen, defenseman Patrick McNally went earlier in the draft than any other pick, with the Vancouver Canucks selecting the Milton Academy graduate in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He scored 14 goals and registered 21 assists in just 28 games during his senior season in 2009-2010.
“I was just really comfortable with the coaching staff, and Harvard is obviously the best school in the world, so it was kind of an easy decision,” McNally said of his choice to come to Cambridge. “It’s been good so far, the guys are great with bringing us along, and it’s been fun.”
In the 2011 amateur draft, two Harvard prospects—right wing Petr Placek and goaltender Stephen Michalek—were selected in the sixth round while two more were taken in the seventh.
With the loss of Kyle Richter ’11 and Ryan Carroll ’11 in goal, Michalek will likely see action in the net, splitting time with sophomore Raphael Girard.
“We feel [Michalek] has a chance to be a very, very high-end goalie,” Donato said. “[But] there will be some growing pains, just like there always are.”
The other two 2011 draftees on the Harvard roster both went in the seventh and final round. Center Colin Blackwell was the 194th overall pick by the San Jose Sharks, and defenseman Max Everson—brother of junior forward Marshall Everson—was taken nine picks later by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Much like junior Danny Biega, the younger Everson has demonstrated offensive prowess even as a defenseman. As a high school senior, he had 21 points in 22 games.
“Max and [McNally] are great. Both of them, I think, are ready to play right away,” Placek said. “They’re going to be a big help for the team … I’m sure as we keep on going into the season, [the freshmen] are going to have a bigger and bigger impact.”
But their newly-developed chemistry extends beyond ice. All of the rookies talked about the importance of their camaraderie away from Bright Hockey Center, and how that has greatly impacted their college experiences so far.