Men's Hockey Well-Represented at NHL Development Camps
While practically every Crimson iceman is training on his own during the end-of-year recess, a select few get a taste of hockey beyond Cambridge when they skate in Development Camps for National Hockey League teams.
This summer, nine members of next year’s Harvard squad adopted a novel logo across their chests—as well as new coaches, trainers, and fans—when they laced up their skates at a professional organization’s week-long camp.
Five of these skaters, junior Adam Fox, sophomores Jack Badini and Reilly Walsh, and freshmen Jack Drury and Jack Rathbone, are already in the prospect pool of their respective franchises, either through the NHL Entry Draft or via trade acquisitions since then. The remaining four, co-captain Lewis Zerter-Gossage, junior Ty Pelton-Byce, sophomore Henry Bowlby, and freshman Casey Dornbach, received invites to camp as undrafted free agents.
In addition to the players on the 2018-2019 team, three former Crimson standouts, forward Jake Horton ’18, goaltender Merrick Madsen ’18, and forward Tyler Moy ’17, looked to improve their chances at a professional roster spot by attending Development Camp.
Regardless of what professional hockey holds for Harvard’s skaters, the Bright-Landry crowd will see the skills they have learned over the past few weeks on full display this winter. Here’s a look inside the Development Camp experiences of one member from each class on the 2018-2019 roster.
LEWIS ZERTER-GOSSAGE, F ’19
As he prepares for his final Harvard season — one in which he will don the captain’s “C” for his club — Lewis Zerter-Gossage finds himself in a familiar summer routine.
“I’ve basically been doing the same thing back home for the last eight summers or so,” the co-captain said. “I grew up going to this hockey camp that was run by my neighbors at the time…. The camp was actually for younger people then, and I kind of grew to be the oldest guy every year, and I still am, and I’ve basically been working there and training.”
In short, the Montréal, Qué., native is no stranger to his local hockey camp—nor is he a stranger to NHL Development Camps, having skated in the Arizona Coyotes’ camp in 2016 before sporting his home-town colors for the Montréal Canadiens last summer. This summer, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who approached Zerter-Gossage with an invite to camp.
“Pittsburgh was very interesting to me because they typically have a lot of college guys on their roster [and] go for guys who are a little older,” the forward noted. “It’s also a really good spot to learn from a lot of the success they’ve had in recent years.”
Luckily, the Kent School product was able to leverage his prior camp experiences to both impress the Penguins organization and get the most out of the coaching staff’s insights.
For Zerter-Gossage, perhaps the most crucial takeaway from this year’s Development Camp revolved around off-ice preparation. The Penguins coaching staff stressed the importance of stretching for the sake of skating mobility and injury prevention. Turning to the game surface, the staff reinforced the Crimson co-captain’s willingness to play in front of the net and earn gritty goals, thanks to his combination of size and skill.
“Hearing what [the Penguins] think about my game from their perspective is definitely something that helps me a lot with confidence and with different things that I think that I could work on,” Zerter-Gossage said.
A successful week in Pittsburgh marks three camps in three summers for three different NHL franchises for the Harvard senior. With each experience, Zerter-Gossage has made strides in his game while also deepening his understanding of off-ice intangibles, which will certainly prove valuable as he co-captains this year’s Crimson squad along with forward Michael Floodstrand.
“Something about [the Penguins’] culture that I thought was really impressive was that…no matter where they are on the team hierarchy, everybody was willing to talk to you,” Zerter-Gossage reflected. “To me, it isn’t really a surprise that they’re a team that contends year-in and year-out, just because of how deep their culture seems.”
Decisions about the winger’s professional future, while they may lie dormant for much of the Crimson’s 2018-2019 campaign, are likely on the horizon. One thing, though, is evident: Zerter-Gossage will continue to give his pro hockey career an honest shot.
“With the way things have gone [at Harvard], I think I kind of owe it to myself to push [my hockey career] as far as it can go,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot throughout the [Development Camp] experiences that would help me transition into a pro. At this point, I’m definitely interested in that.”
ADAM FOX, D ’20
The award for most eventful summer thus far likely goes to the offensive wizard leading Harvard’s blue line. Adam Fox, a two-time reigning First Team CCM/AHCA All-America selection, saw the Calgary Flames trade his draft rights to the Carolina Hurricanes in a late-June blockbuster.
Originally selected 66th overall by the Canadian franchise, the junior has blossomed into one of the most skilled players in all of college hockey and certainly one of the Crimson’s most exciting NHL prospects.
“At first, it was a little shocking,” said Fox in reaction to the trade. “[I’ve] never been a part of a trade. My advisor called me and he was like, ‘Yeah, I think you might be on the move to Carolina,’…. Then I finally saw on Twitter that I was part of this big trade.”
So even though the Jericho, N.Y., native skated in his third Development Camp this summer, his experience was full of firsts as he got to know his new organization.
“I was pretty accustomed to how Development Camps work, and what you want to get out of Development Camp, especially as a college player,” Fox said. “For me, it was [about] not being afraid to ask questions and trying to get an understanding for what management and staff want out of you. And obviously meeting some new players…. It was definitely good to meet a couple new guys.”
“[Fox] definitely stepped in to try to help mentor me a little to get me ready for Harvard, in terms of classes and what to expect living situation-wise,” Drury said. “He’s obviously one of the best players in all of college hockey, so just getting a glimpse into the future and what he can do was something that I enjoyed. It’s going to be awesome getting to play with him next year.”
As a highly-touted prospect who has multiple college seasons remaining, Fox will have a crucial decision to make at the end of Harvard’s 2018-2019 campaign. He can depart college early and get a jumpstart on his NHL career à la Ryan Donato last season. Alternatively, he can follow the footsteps of recent stars Jimmy Vesey ’16 and Alexander Kerfoot ’17 and return for his senior year, likely captain a talented Crimson squad, and have the option of entering the NHL as an Unrestricted Free Agent, providing him some leverage in choosing his dollar value and destination.
“[I won’t] think too much in the future, just trying to handle my classes and obviously handle the hockey season with that,” said Fox about his approach to his junior year, not knowing whether it will be his last at Harvard. “Not much changes for me.”
HENRY BOWLBY, F ’21
Henry Bowlby spent much of last summer in Cambridge, where he studied and trained in preparation for his freshman year. And while a summer in Harvard Square has its perks, the rising sophomore does admit that it is nice being home in Edina, Minn., this year for individual training and interning.
Bowlby couldn’t stay away from Beantown altogether, though. In late-June, he joined the Boston Bruins’ Development Camp as an undrafted free agent invite.
“I started talking to Jamie Langenbrunner [Bruins’ Player Development Coordinator] about halfway through this year,” Bowlby recounted. “I was really interested. I love the city of Boston, and it’s treated me so well in my time being there. Knowing that the Bruins were an Original Six organization, it was just really exciting getting to know that they were interested in you.”
Aside from the rigorous skating test, Bowlby noted that the vibe at the Bruins’ Development Camp was relatively laid-back and that the skills-based training was quite intensive. He also recognized how Development Camp may have helped the games of some of Harvard’s most talented players in recent years, such as Fox and Donato.
“The biggest thing about the pro game is how fast the decision-making is,” Bowlby said. “I’ve really been trying to work on my vision passing and puck moving and skill, as well as my stick handling…. Ryan and Foxy have tremendous skills in that sense.”
In fact, Donato, an alumnus of the Bruins’ camp, reached out to Bowlby ahead of time to offer advice. While at camp, Bowlby had a friendly run-in with Donato and former Harvard rearguard Wiley Sherman ’18, both members of the Boston organization who were training at the practice facility.
“I was not expecting it at all,” Bowlby said. “Then I saw him the first day and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, nice to see a familiar face….’ It was nice to talk to him as well.”
Compared to Zerter-Gossage and Fox, the sophomore forward certainly has more time to decide on his future hockey plans. His experience at Development Camp this summer, though, has gotten the wheels turning.
“I haven’t really been thinking too much about a pro career, but obviously after the Bruins’ camp and seeing that they were interested, it was really exciting for me,” Bowlby said.
JACK DRURY, F ’22
The most recent NHL draft pick among his Harvard teammates, Jack Drury headlines a talented class of eight freshmen who will be tasked with filling the void left by last season’s departures.
Hockey is in Drury’s blood: his father, Ted, skated in over 400 NHL games after an illustrious career with Harvard in the 1990s, while his uncle, Chris, captained multiple NHL teams and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.
Despite the impressive pedigree, Drury will have to pave his own way to the NHL. So far, the Winnetka, Ill., native is on the right track, having been selected in the second round by the Carolina Hurricanes in this year’s NHL Entry Draft before attending his first Development Camp mere days later.
“It was a 10-day stretch, and it was crazy,” said Drury, alluding to the whirlwind that ensued in late-June. “It kind of went by in the blink of an eye. It was just a lot of flights and uncertainty, but it was a great time, and I couldn’t be happier with the way things ended up.”
Not only were the events of late-June enjoyable for Drury, but they were also productive. At ‘Canes Development Camp, the former USHL standout added layers to his game that will prove effective at the college level, especially in the physical ECAC.
“One major point I took away from [camp] was…at the higher levels, you got to be willing to take the puck to the net, kind of using your body to protect the puck and get it inside the house so that you can create good scoring opportunities for yourself,” Drury said. “That’s something that I wouldn’t have known, translating to a higher level of play, if I hadn’t been there.”
According to Drury, the disciplined and hard-working culture of his fellow NHL-hopefuls at Development Camp was contagious.
“Just to kind of watch the habits of the other players there that have made it to a pretty high level and are on the cusp of playing in the NHL, it was nice to experience that firsthand,” he continued. “I can take away their routines and the way they go about their business and use it myself in the following years.”
Over the course of the summer, the forward has been in touch with members of his Harvard class. But having the chance to room and skate with one of the leaders on next year’s squad, Adam Fox, was especially rewarding for him. Fox himself was impressed with his new teammate.
“He’s a great kid off the ice. Super nice, super friendly,” Fox lauded. “On the ice, he’s a competitive kid who will work his tail off. We’re excited to have him next year.”
While Development Camp ultimately suggests a hockey career beyond Cambridge, the skills and habits that the nine Crimson skaters gleaned at Development Camp this summer will serve the Harvard team well in the 2018-2019 season and beyond.
—Staff writer Spencer R. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMorrisTHC.