Rookies Ready To Contribute

Robert F Worley

Freshmen (left to right) Kyle Criscuolo, Greg Gozzo, Jimmy Vesey, and Brian Hart lead a rookie class that was rated as the best in the ECAC by College Hockey News.

Though there may not be any NHL games at the moment, members of the Harvard men’s hockey team’s freshman class plan to make a name for themselves at the professional level in the years to come.

But before they get to do so, their impact will be felt on the ice for the Crimson. The Class of 2016 is heralded as the top recruiting class in the ECAC according to College Hockey News, and is one of the best in recent memory for Harvard.

Last season’s rookie class would be hard to top for any program, with five current sophomores drafted by NHL teams, but the incoming class rivals its predecessor in the talent of the group as a whole.

Headlining the rookies are two top offensive talents, forwards Brian Hart and Jimmy Vesey, who have both been drafted by NHL squads.

Hart comes to Harvard out of Phillips Exeter Academy, where he was named the USHR player and forward of the year. As a senior, he notched 32 goals and 36 assists in 29 games and was also named Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year in soccer.

Last summer, Hart heard his name called by the Tampa Bay Lightning, selected 53rd overall in the second round of the NHL draft, the highest for a Crimson player since Louis Leblanc, formerly a member of the Class of 2013, who made his debut with the Montreal Canadiens last winter.

“[Hart has] a real heavy shot,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 says. “He’s more of a shooter in general, [and] he also can pass the puck very well.”

Vesey, a native of North Reading, Mass., was drafted in the third round by the Nashville Predators with the 66th overall pick. He looks to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy Sr., who played for the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

After being passed over in the 2011 NHL draft after his high school career at Belmont Hill, Vesey suited up for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season, where he put up a record 99 points in 51 games.

“Jimmy has got good size, got great offensive instincts,” Donato says. “[He] is a goal-scorer but also very good playmaker.”

Additionally, the Crimson’s new offense will be supplemented by incoming rookies Kyle Criscuolo, Greg Gozzo, and Brayden Jaw.

“They are guys that are physically mature enough to step right in and have an impact,” Donato says.

Gozzo and Criscuolo both made rounds in the prep school circuit, at Avon Old Farms and Choate Rosemary Hall, respectively, before moving on to the United States Hockey League.

Criscuolo skated for the Sioux City Musketeers where he recorded 44 points in 59 games, capturing his team’s rookie of the year award. Gozzo produced 49 points in 56 games for the Omaha Lancers.

With the departure of former assistant captain Alex Killorn ’12—who recorded 109 career points—the forwards will look to replace his offensive output both on even-strength play and on the power play.