Being a rookie in a new league in one’s draft eligible season can be doubly difficult for a prospect hoping for a little advice along the way.
That’s not necessarily the case for Fargo Force forward Brendan Harms.
Harms, who leads the United States Hockey League in assists with 13 in just 10 games, has taken solace in a coaching staff consisting of John Marks, Byron Pool, Terry Shercliffe and Jesse Davis.
“For draft advice I turn to my coaches,” Harms said. “They have been around for a long time and have a ton of hockey experience so if I have questions I ask them.”
And if he’s too shy to ask Marks – who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks ninth overall in 1968 – Harms has fellow first-year forward Dominic Toninato to turn to.
Toninato went through the stresses of the draft a year ago while playing high school hockey in Minnesota and was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round last June.
“I am pretty close with Dom,” Harms admitted. “Being on the same line since we have been in Fargo and both being first years on the team we have become pretty good friends and get along really well.”
But if Harms is being completely truthful, the adjustment of playing in his draft season has been an easy one for the Steinbach, MB product. If anything, starring for the Portage Terriers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League has made him more than accustomed to playing in front of scouts on a regular basis.
“It doesn’t really feel that different being in my draft season,” he said. “Over the years I have been exposed to scouts being at my games and have learned not too worry about it. You will have good games and bad games, but you have to try to not think too much about who is watching and just focus on your play.”
And with those experiences behind him, his early season success in Fargo and the draft in front of him, perhaps the only advice he’ll be needing is what colour tie to wear in New Jersey.
How much do you pay attention to what’s going on around you draft class, whether it be the projected top picks like Nathan MacKinnon or former teammates from international tournaments like Ryan Pulock?
Usually I don’t pay to much attention to my draft class. I do check the stats in the different leagues every now and then. I usually just check on some guys that I have played with in the past and that I’m good friends with like Ryan Pulock just to see how things are going for them.
Do you feel taking the USHL/NCAA route will allow you to fly under the radar a little bit?
I’m not sure if it really lets me fly under the radar. At the showcase there was a lot of nhl scouts and playing in this league alone and moving on to college will give you a lot of exposure to nhl teams. Either way you still have to compete every night and play your best because someone is always watching.
What’s been your biggest adjustment off the ice leaving Manitoba to play hockey in Fargo?
I think living in a different country has been a bit of a change. Although North Dakota is a lot similar to Manitoba and they are very close. There is still little things that are different, but it hasn’t been that big of an adjustment.
How has the transition to the USHL been for you and what’s enabled you to find success early?
I have been very fortunate to have the start that I have had in the USHL so far. The speed of this league and the strength of the players I found was definitely a step up for me coming from the MJHL. In saying that the transition has been great. My first exhibition games weren’t very good, but having the line mates I have and the team and coaching staff being so welcoming it has been a pretty easy transition that way. I am getting a lot of opportunities and my billets are great, so hopefully I can continue to get better.
You plan on going to Bemidji. What led you to this route over Major Junior and how heavily did the Brandon Wheat Kings pursue you?
The main reason I chose the college route instead of the major junior route was the education. School has always been important to me and I felt there would be no better way to go to school then to play hockey in the college atmosphere at the same time. Also I felt going to college would give me a little more time to develop and get stronger. Brandon did show interest and I have nothing against there organization. They are a great organization and have done nothing wrong in my eyes, I just felt this route was better suited for me.
How much of an impact has your bother had on your hockey career? What was it like playing with him?
My brother has had a huge impact on my hockey career. Ever since I can remember he has been pushing me to be better, and teaching me a lot of what I know on the ice. I still talk to him all the time and ask for advice or just to talk when I have had a bad game. He is a great asset to have since he has gone through it all in his own junior hockey career. Playing with him was a lot of fun since we had never been on the same team before. It was a little weird at first looking down the bench and seeing him there but that changed quickly. We had a lot of fun and were very lucky to be able to play together and even luckier to win a championship together.