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In the past several seasons, alums of the Harvard men’s ice hockey program have emerged as powerhouses of talent and production in the National Hockey League (NHL), with former Crimson stars Adam Fox, Ryan Donato, Alex Killorn, Jimmy Vesey, and others establishing themselves as key contributors for their respective teams.
Now, after Harvard’s 8-1 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on March 24th eliminated the Crimson from the 2023 NCAA Tournament, the next wave of Harvard talent is heading to the NHL.
Less than 24 hours after the Crimson’s loss, former captain Henry Thrun signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks, while former star forwards Sean Farrell and Matthew Coronato inked three-year deals with the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames, respectively. Former goaltender Mitchell Gibson joined the Washington Capitals, while former standout Alex Laferriere is joining the Los Angeles Kings’ minor league team and former captain John Farinacci is considering joining the Arizona Coyotes.
Former forwards Baker Shore and Wyllum Deveaux have also signed minor league tryout deals in the ECHL.
Thrun, a native of Southborough, Mass., co-captained Harvard to a stellar regular season in 2022-2023. After being named a Second Team All-American in 2021-2022, Thrun was recognized this season as the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman, while putting up 31 points on offense (seven goals, 24 assists) to lead Crimson defensemen. A leader on and off the ice, Thrun also led the team in blocked shots with 40, and he was a staple on the left side of Harvard’s top defense pair, alongside fellow senior Ryan Siedem.
A fourth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2019, Thrun’s NHL rights were traded to the Sharks on February 28th after he indicated that he intended to test free agency instead of signing with the Ducks. Thrun joins a Sharks squad stuck at the bottom of the NHL standings, but San Jose is 2-0-1 since his debut, and Thrun recorded two assists in his first game, an overtime victory on March 30 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Obviously, I was a little nervous, a couple [of] butterflies there, but a lot of really welcoming guys in the room,” Thrun told NBC Sports California after his debut.
Gibson, hailing from Phoenixville, Pa., posted a brilliant season in his final campaign in Cambridge, earning a berth on the All-ECAC Second Team with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. After taking over as the starter last season in his junior campaign, Gibson was a consistent and often dominant presence between the pipes for the Crimson, and he posted some of his best performances in Harvard’s biggest games. This season, he notched 45 saves in the Beanpot semifinal against Boston College, posted a shutout against Cornell in an overtime victory in the ECAC semifinals, and made 35 saves in a heavyweight battle with Michigan in November. Gibson was drafted in the fourth round in 2018 by the Washington Capitals, and he has signed an amateur tryout (ATO) to join the Capitals organization, and he was summoned to the NHL on April 2nd to serve as the Capitals’ backup goalie after Washington’s backup was unavailable due to illness.
Laferriere led the Crimson in goal scoring in 2022-2023 with 21 as part of a stellar junior season. After earning ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year Honors last season in his sophomore campaign (his first with Harvard due to Ivy League’s cancellation of the 2020-2021 season), Laferriere emerged as a dynamic goal-scoring threat and an engine of the Crimson’s second line. A N.J. native and childhood teammate of Farinacci and sophomore forward Alex Gaffney, Laferriere scored five goals across Harvard’s four-game ECAC tournament run, including the overtime winner in the semifinals against Cornell. Drafted in the third round in 2020 by the Los Angeles Kings, Laferriere agreed to an amateur tryout (ATO) with the Ontario Reign, the Kings’ minor league affiliate.
“It definitely took a couple [of] shifts to get used to it, my first shift an unlucky bounce off my skate and it's in the back of our net, so definitely not a good start,” said Laferriere in an interview with the Reign’s official website after his first game. “I think after I got a couple shifts under me, I felt good out there. Definitely a lot more physical, but I felt good.”
After an incredible second season in crimson, junior Farrell was named one of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, the most prestigious award in college hockey, which has been awarded to four Harvard alums: Mark Fusco ‘83, Scott Fusco ‘86, Lane MacDonald ‘89, and Jimmy Vesey ‘16. Named the ECAC Hockey and Ivy League Player of the Year, Farrell led the team in scoring, posting 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 34 games, and he finished second in the country in points per game (1.56). He was the team’s top left wing, playing alongside Coronato and sophomore Zakary Karpa with the team at full strength. Farrell and Coronato, who previously played together in junior hockey for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, had elite chemistry on the ice. Farrell surpassed the 50-point mark in the ECAC quarterfinals against Princeton on March 11th, becoming just the third player in Harvard hockey history to reach the mark. Hailing from Hopkinton, Mass., Farrell grew up playing with and against teammate Thrun, and he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft, 124th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens — one of the NHL’s Original Six. Farrell officially signed a three-year entry-level contract on Sunday, March 26th, choosing the professional route instead of his senior year at Harvard. Farrell made his NHL debut on Tuesday, March 28th against the Philadelphia Flyers, and he recorded his first goal in his second game, scoring in the first two minutes of the Canadiens’ March 30 game against the Florida Panthers.
“Obviously an offensive talent, dynamic player. Not a big guy, but he's able to attack between checks and stuff,” said Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis at a press conference before Farrell’s debut. “He's done it at every level. And this is a level that he's gonna have to show that he can still do it.”
Sophomore forward Coronato was perhaps the most clutch player on Harvard’s roster this season, scoring overtime winners against Yale and Colgate, a late game-tying goal against Princeton, as well as four goals during the Beanpot Tournament. After a stellar freshman year, Coronato matched his point total of 34 (20 goals, 14 assists) while continuing to perform well under the bright lights after he scored the overtime winner in last season’s ECAC title game. Named to this year’s All-Ivy First Team and All-ECAC Second Team, the Greenlawn, N.Y. native signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames on March 26th, foregoing his final two years of college eligibility. Coronato was the Flames’ first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft as the 13th overall pick – the highest draft pick in Harvard Hockey history. Coronato is yet to make his debut but will have a chance to do so in some critical games as the Flames battle for a playoff spot.
“It’s been a little crazy, it’s been really exciting, just hard to explain the feeling of being here,” said Coronato at a press conference after his first practice. “Really just grateful for the opportunity to come in and be here with these guys and learn.”
In his last year at Harvard, co-captain Farinacci was sidelined due to an upper-body injury for the first half of the season, lacing up for the first time against Clarkson University on January 13th. Upon his return, the Red Bank, N.J. native joined childhood teammate Laferriere on the second line at center and tallied five goals and 15 assists, combining for 20 points in 19 games. Farinacci has been a consistent producer during his time in Cambridge, recording 19 points last year and 20 in his freshman season in 2019-20. Farinacci played for Team USA in the 2021 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, tallying five goals and two assists in Team USA’s gold medal run. Farinacci was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Arizona Coyotes, 76th overall, and the Coyotes will retain Farinacci’s NHL rights until August 15th. If he doesn’t sign before then, Farinacci can become a free agent and would be free to sign with any team in the NHL.
— Staff writer Bridget T. Sands can be reached at email@example.com.
— Staff writer Aaron B. Shuchman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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