No. 10: Ben Harpur (Reader Rank: 7, Last Year: 29)
What a year it was for Ben Harpur.
Senators management made it public in the 2015-16 season and during training camp in late September that they wanted more from Harpur, whose development had been lacking convincing steps in the right direction.
Midway through the 2016-17 campaign they thought they had gotten through to Harpur, and the youngster was making giant strides forward. In April, they knew for sure.
Harpur is the first player on our Top 25 Under 25 to have played in the NHL’s 2017 postseason, recording nine games and an additional two assists. And though the second round series against the New York Rangers proved to be too much for the 22-year-old to handle, he was one of the team’s better players in the first round versus the Boston Bruins.
Harpur showed he had made major improvements down in the AHL with regards to his previous struggles with foot speed, puck handling and defensive awareness.
Though he hadn’t exactly turned into a lightning quick skater, master puck-handler and genius in his own zone over the course of one season, he was absolutely able to keep up at both ends and provided some much needed shutdown minutes in a series in which the Senators nearly immediately lost Mark Borowiecki and were hampered quite seriously by the second pairing’s poor defensive performance throughout the six games.
Looking ahead, unfortunately for the Hamilton native, the Senators’ 2017-18 defense corps doesn’t look too penetrable. Marc Methot’s departure does open up a spot, but with Freddy Claesson’s coming out party in the playoffs and Thomas Chabot nipping at the heels of the bubble defenders, Harpur may see himself playing yet another year in the AHL. Only this time it’ll be in Belleville, not Binghamton.
Regardless of his position come early October, however, Harpur’s rapid advancement will not soon be forgotten. General manager Pierre Dorion has shown a tonne of confidence in his young defenseman, arguably too much, at times.
Stay-at-home defensemen are growing scarce in the modern-day NHL, but maybe the Senators’ future has room for one more.