Defense wins championships. It’s an old saying in sports, but Harvard men’s hockey might not be particularly convinced by it.
Take the series against Brown in last year’s ECAC playoffs, for example. It wasn’t the defense that let the Crimson down in the 1-0 and 2-0 shutout losses—it was the lack of offensive firepower.
This year, Harvard has brought in eight freshmen—six of whom are forwards—to add fuel to the offensive fire. The class, ranked fifth in the nation and first in the ECAC by Inside College Hockey, faces high expectations.
“I think more than previous years, [the freshmen are] going to be impact players for us right away,” captain Alex Biega says. “I think all eight of them have the ability to be tremendous assets to the team and step in right away and play.”
The incoming group will be an important part of Harvard’s plan to become quicker and more exciting in the offensive zone.
“[The freshmen are] all capable of having an impact offensively,” says Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91. “We really feel there’s a lot of upside up front in that freshman class.”
“I do think, offensively, we really [are ready] to open up the culture as far as creativity and speed,” he adds.
The class of 2013 is headlined by Louis Leblanc, a 6’0, 180-pound forward who was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the NHL Draft this June. Leblanc is just the second Crimson player and seventh ECAC player ever to be selected in the first round.
“He’s a kid who’s going to bring it every night,” Biega says of Leblanc. “He has great skill sets, and he’s a very gritty player.”
The first-year played for the Omaha Lancers last season and was named Rookie of the Year in the United States Hockey League. Leblanc, who scored 28 goals and recorded 31 assists for the Lancers in 60 games, will be counted on immediately to produce around the net.
“Louis Leblanc obviously is a guy that brings a great...work ethic, and has always been able to provide offense,” Donato says. “So I think we expect him to be an impact guy for us.”
Another player who will be expected to put up points is forward Alex Fallstrom, who was selected in the fourth round of the NHL Draft by the Minnesota Wild and then later traded to the Boston Bruins. The 6’2 power forward calls Stockholm, Sweden home, but Fallstrom spent the last two years playing for Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a program perennially ranked among the nation’s best.
The Crimson will also look for goals from newcomer Conor Morrison, who represented Germany at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship. He spent the past two years in the British Columbia Hockey League, where he was second on his team in points last season. He hails from a hockey family, as both his father and grandfather played and scouted for the NHL.
Marshall Everson, Luke Greiner, and David Valek round out the forwards in the freshman class.
With the addition of the talented attackers, Harvard will look to become a more explosive squad. According to Donato, the Crimson will put an extra emphasis on being aggressive and dangerous in its opponents’ zone.