While the Flames were dunking all over the Kings, Adam Fox and his Harvard Crimson had their NCAA season end with a 2-1 loss to Minnesota-Duluth, who seem to really be the antagonists for Flames NCAA prospects.
Fox has been better than anything we expected. He was the leading defensive scorer in the NCAA, and somehow, that’s still not the most impressive thing. The next closest freshman defender was 22 points behind Fox. Among freshmen at all positions, Fox finished second in scoring behind 2016 seventh overall pick Clayton Keller.
And somehow, that’s still not the most impressive thing. In all of NCAA history, Fox had the sixth best season for a freshman defenceman. The five who finished above him all played in the ’70s and ’80s too, where goalies only played drunk. He is only one of two NCAA freshman defencemen to score at a point per game this century, the other being 2015 eighth overall pick Zach Werenski.
The kid is extremely talented, so where does he go from here?
A brief history
As that intro pointed out, Fox’s history is making history. He’s also the best defenceman the US National Development Program has ever seen in its 20-year history.
|GP-G-A-P||Primary Points||5v5 P1||NHLe|
Fox was major role on the Crimson. He was the quarterback on Harvard’s deadly powerplay, scoring over half of his points on the man advantage. In addition to solid defensive work (only on the ice for 14 5v5 goals against), he was an offensive machine.
Welcome to the killjoy section of the article.
From the chart, we can see that Fox had some sort of minor WJC hangover, struggling to keep up with the astounding production he had at the start of the season. He was steady towards the end, but he certainly did suffer a bit.
There’s also the issue of the quality of competition he faces. The ECAC is the scum of the NCAA. Most of the teams in that conference are bottom feeders, and Harvard is the current powerhouse. For the majority of the season, he was facing off against some of the worst teams in Division 1.
For example, let’s compare him again to Werenski. Despite Fox scoring at a higher rate per game, his NHLe is six points lower than Werenski’s because of the weakness of the ECAC (0.23 NHLe multiplier versus a 0.35 in the Big Ten). The weakness of the players Fox faced on a weekly basis must be considered, because his numbers are slightly inflated because of it.
Of course, this is not to say that Fox is Actually Bad. You simply can’t be as dominant as he’s been everywhere by accident. But it’s wise to temper expectations even in the face of his great season. But there’s a bit more to prove.
Fox still has unfinished business at Harvard.
Harvard’s going to take a step backwards next year – five of their top 10 players are graduating seniors – but they have space to grow, with the other five being four freshman and one sophomore. They may not be national championship contenders, but they’ll definitely be up there.
Fox’s goals should be a little bit more personal. Although typically an upperclassmen’s award, the defenceman should have a dark horse shot at the Hobey Baker. He’ll also have another shot at the World Juniors, where he could potentially be America’s top player. It’s a tough ask to build off his 2016-17 season, but it’s certainly doable. He’ll be the featured face wherever he is next year, and it opens up the door for more greatness.
Fox will probably spend another year at college (and with a free ride at Harvard, who would say no?), and the Flames are just fine with that. There’s no need to rush him into the professional ranks. The Flames have a glut of defensive depth right now, so no need to bring him up this early. Always better to wait and see.