Paul Osborne, From the Stands
Imagine starting your midget year in minor hockey with no expectations you’d even get noticed, let alone drafted in the Ontario Hockey League.
That was the situation Ben Harpur was in last fall. He was a run of the mill left-winger on a traditionally bad hockey team and the OHL was nowhere in his future plans. Then one game late in the fall, his Niagara Falls club was playing the high flying Halton Hurricanes and the coach suggested he and a couple other forwards move back to defence so their best puck movers would be able to wheel the puck of their zone.
Harpur played so well back there, that he never left the blue line.
“Early on teams really had no interest in me,” he admits from his home in the Niagara region. “I was not a high-end player and while every kid wants to be drafted, I really had no expectations that I would be.”
But then the scouts started to notice him.
“Our coach put us in a tournament in Hamilton because a lot of scouts were going to be there,” said Harpur who says he is close to signing with the Storm. “After that. 10 scouts came up to talk to my coach. That was a good confidence booster for me and I really started working hard and my coach was tougher on me in practice.”
“He went from being a mildly interesting draft pick to being a high-end draft pick when he moved to defence,” said Storm vice-president and GM Mike Kelly. “Just the instinctive part of his game on defence was exceptional. When I saw him on defence he just really jumped out at me.”
Harpur was listed in the OHL draft manual as 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds but is now 6-foot-5 and a hair under 195 pounds. Like Stanley Cup champion Zdeno Chara, Harpur’s reach has become a great weapon.
“My stick is only four inches shorter than I am, so that’s a good 10 feet of reach and it is an area of my game I focus on,” said Harpur, whose father is a general surgeon and mother a stay-at-home mom. “Stick positioning is something I’ve really worked on.”
While he suited up for Niagara Falls, teams that routinely won just five games a season, he was often playing against the Storm’s 2011 first-round pick, Hunter Garlent, who played in Welland.
“Garlent was one of the best players in our league by far,” said Harpur of his future teammate. “He is fast, has good hands and is really slick. He’s not the biggest guy but he is impossible to hit and very frustrating to play against.”
So it has been an incredible ride for Harpur – from a virtual unknown to the first pick in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League draft. Kelly is hoping that his development as a defenceman will continue to grow like his burgeoning potential.
From the Land of Oz: Dan Paille – Stanley Cup champion! Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
The best moment as a champion for the former Guelph Storm player?
“It would be being able to celebrate the Cup right after the game in the dressing room. It was a tremendous experience and feeling,” he said. “And I’d (have to add) the parade where the city came alive and we broke the record for the number of fans at a parade in Boston’s history and of course getting to lift the Stanley Cup over my head.”
Will he bring the Cup back to Guelph? “No, but I will be coming (to Guelph) when teammate (Rich) Peverley brings it back to Guelph for his day, to show my support. Guelph was such a big part of where I am today.”