While the Flames and Sharks did battle, Adam Fox and Harvard blew a 4-1 lead to something called Clarkson in the ECAC tournament, losing 5-4 in overtime.
That pretty much seals Harvard’s season. Despite being just a goal away from the National Championship last season, Harvard struggled all this year, barely being able to stay above .500, and needed to win the ECAC tournament to make the Frozen Four. They underperformed all season and needed a miracle to survive, but instead let one happen. They’re likely not going to get in the final 16 on merit, so their season is over. They’ll have to settle for being one of the world’s most recognizable and prestigious universities.
Accordingly, Fox’s season is also done, and he faces the potential of going pro in the next few weeks. As one of the Flames’ most recognizable and prestigious prospects, people have been keenly awaiting his arrival. Will it be soon?
If you’re just a little bit familiar with Fox, you’ll know he’s a record breaker. He’s been one of the USA’s most promising young talents for a while now (bts: for a while, the only picture we had of Fox was him participating in a tournament as an eight year old. He was that noteworthy) and set the record for defenceman scoring on the U.S. Development Program team, one that still stands.
As a freshman at Harvard, Fox really blew the doors down. He had the sixth best freshman performance ever in NCAA history, and those who scored higher than he did played in the 70s and 80s, an era famous for easy goal scoring. With a strong WJC gold medal performance under his belt too, it was reasonable to expect that Fox would have an even more dynamite 2017-18.
Fox was going to have an elevated role in both of his stops this season. At Harvard, seven seniors departed, including three 40-point scorers. With the U.S., he would be one of two defencemen returning from the gold medal winning squad. With both teams, Fox was going to need to step up and fill in some of the gaps created by these departures.
At Harvard, he tried admirably. It’s very hard to replace what Harvard lost, and their struggles throughout the year confirm this. Until the ECAC tournament, Harvard was one game above .500 and had already picked up twice as many losses as they did last year. Fox pretty much saved the team from getting bounced in round one of the tournament, scoring six total points in back-to-back elimination games.
The U.S. also ran into their fair share of problems at the World Juniors. Again, Fox played strong hockey leading all defencemen in scoring (one goal, four assists in seven games), but it wasn’t enough as the Americans settled for bronze.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points||NHLe|
Fox quite clearly did not have as good a season as he did last year. He didn’t put up points as frequently, and really only outplayed his 2016-17 self early in the season. After a good start, he mostly disappeared, and Harvard struggled for the most part.
But he’s also a defenceman, a position that is not supposed to put up points. Fox rode the ebbs and flows of Harvard’s overall production, which is likely the main cause for his drop in scoring numbers. Last year, he was involved in 22.24% of all Crimson goals. This year, he was in on 30.34%. Despite the drop, he actually became a bigger part of Harvard’s overall attack. His ratio of primary points to all points also went up, which is good news, too.
Not to say he’s perfect. Fox still appears to mostly be a powerplay quarterback, not necessarily much of a threat at 5v5. His involvement in 5v5 goals didn’t change that much from last season to this one, jumping a tiny 1.52% from 15.82% to 17.34%. Ten 5v5 points all year is kind of a sad sight to see, and given that only six of those are primary points, it’s a bit concerning. Again, defencemen are never supposed to be the primary supplier of offence, but guys who rack up powerplay points generally raise a red flag.
Another oddity is his scoring splits, especially in a conference as weak as the ECAC. It seems a bit concerning that Fox was often invisible against the garbage teams in his conference, and it really took a few hot games at the end of the season to make his statline look digestible. In his first 20 games of the year, Fox was only able to score 12 points. Then he scored 16 in his final nine. Scoring doesn’t care when it happens, but it’s certainly an odd split and it really makes you wonder where Fox was for the majority of the year.
I would not be too concerned however. I feel it’s only fair to point out that Fox was a head above the rest of Harvard’s defence. He was eight points up on the next closest defenceman, and 12 up on third place. Among all NCAA defenders, he finished sixth in points per game while being younger (by years) than those ahead of him. He’s got his warts, but he’s still pretty good.
It’s all in Fox’s hands now.
For my money, he leaves. Harvard isn’t really going anywhere. If this year is any indication, they’re a team that is going backwards and will probably lose top scorer Ryan Donato on top of that. They’re getting projected top 10 pick Oliver Wahlstrom and Jack Drury (Chris’ nephew) next year, but otherwise not a whole lot else. The team will be composed of a few promising young guys and a bunch of older, not great guys. He’s already run out of World Juniors eligibility, so it’s not as if a pro team would hold him back. Why stick around?
He’ll probably be ATO’d and sent to the AHL to finish off this year. Fellow 2016 draft pick, USDP teammate, and highly rated college athlete Trent Frederic has done the same. I would also imagine that he would spend the majority of next season in the AHL, as there is a pretty large gap between pro hockey and ECAC hockey – just ask Spencer Foo. You can start dreaming about the offence a Kylington-Fox pairing could put up. Or a Valimaki-Fox pairing, if that’s your thing.
But if he doesn’t sign, I wouldn’t panic. A Harvard education is pretty enticing, and I could see why anyone might not want to give that up for minor league hockey just yet. If Harvard rebounds, there’s a strong chance he could get some Hobey Baker nods. There’s incentive to stay there is what I’m saying. If he does stay, it’s probably not because he hates the Flames and wants to sign elsewhere, he just has some unfinished business.