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Photo Credit: courtesy Calgary Flames/NHL Media

Prospect wrap-up: Adam Fox

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.

2016-17 performance

GP-G-A-P Primary Points 5v5 P1 NHLe
35-6-34-40 19 6 21.55

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Previously

Brandon HickeyRiley Bruce/Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons, Eetu Tuulola, Matt Phillips, Dillon Dube, Adam Ollas Mattsson, Linus Lindstrom, Pavel Karnaukhov/Rushan Rafikov, Tim Harrison

  • Cheeky

    The organization has done a great job at stocking the defensive prospects. Not all are going to make it but it’s sure a relief to have so many high ceiling prospects to pick from and a different varity of style. Here’s to hoping we can develop them right.

    • McRib

      Yeah, particularly the 2016 which could easily end up being our best draft in franchise history. Tkachuk, Parsons, Fox, Dube all seem like surefire NHLers. Not to mention potential homruns in Phillips and Falkovsky as well. Without even mentioning the other three who could all become serviceable pros and have further upside we are talking about at least 4-5 legit non-replacement level talents.

  • L13

    “The ECAC is the scum of the NCAA. Most of the teams in that conference are bottom feeders, and Harvard is the current powerhouse.”

    That’s an outdated generalisation. ECAC has been a lot better that “the scum of the NCAA” for years now. Cornell, QU and Union are very strong teams in addition to Harvard. In fact, the Big Ten was a weaker conference last season, when Werenski played in it, than ECAC. When were these NHLe coefficients last recalculated and what’s the sample size for B1G?

    In any case, Fox had 12 points in 10 non-conference games this season (including the NCAA tournament), which is pretty consistent with his conference scoring rate.

    As for next season, I’m not entirely sure what to expect of him. Harvard had the best power play in the nation this season, which surely can’t be replicated without Kerfoot and co. next year. Since Fox’s biggest offensive impact has been on the PP, I won’t be surprised if his production drops a little. But he should still remain one of the most productive defencemen in college hockey.

    I want to see him assert himself more at even strength, shoot more and take on more defensive duties. He’s a very smart player, but he didn’t utilise his talents as effectively at even strength this season as he could have. So there’s room for growth. I hope he’ll step into a more central role on the USA junior team as well.

    He’s probably our most exciting prospect, so there’s a lot to look forward to!

  • McRib

    “In addition to solid defensive work (only on the ice for 14 5v5 goals against).:..”

    This is the most impressive stat of all. I have heard (unfair) whispers that he needs to work on his defensive game (not that I agreed with them), but as usual it’s just the media unfairly depicting an offensive defender as being “weak defensively”.

    It really isn’t hard to make a future comparison as bold as a Kevin Shattenkirk in this case or a Kris Letang (one can only dream). Worse case a Stephane Robidas comparable would be more than fine as well for Fox.