Selected in the 3rd round (43rd overall) in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, Ben Harpur quickly became a fan favourite with his towering presence on the Storm blue line. The Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario native was a member of the 2013-14 OHL Championship team and played a total of 196 games for the Storm, while recording 55 points (11G, 44A).
By Kristina Rutherford
BOSTON —Ben Harpur has been trying his best, but the towering presence on Ottawa’s blue line will admit he caught himself doing a little star-gazing in his NHL playoff debut the other night.
You can’t blame him, really: captain Erik Karlsson had just sent a tape-to-tape saucer pass from Ottawa’s goal-line to Boston’s blue line, sending Mike Hoffman on a breakaway. Just like that it was 1-0, Senators.
“I caught myself watching it for a second,” said a grinning Harpur, who stands six-foot-six. He’d been on the ice with Karlsson for the play.
“As a kid, I never thought I’d be playing in a playoff series in Boston, one of the best rinks in the league, playing alongside one of the best players in the game,” he added.
Well, here he is. And with defenceman Mark Borowiecki day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and Harpur impressing in his two games in this series so far, he may get a chance to make his home playoff debut Friday, as the Senators look to close out their series against the Bruins, now up 3-1 and one win away from the second round.
A fourth-round pick in 2013, Harpur spent most of this past season in the AHL and got called up in April when the Senators ran into injury trouble. Wednesday’s Game 4 victory was just his 11th NHL game, and he saw 16:35 of ice time and had a shot on net, his second of the series.
To hear the 22-year-old call the experience “kind of surreal” makes sense when you hear his back story.
Harpur grew up in Niagara on the Lake, playing his minor hockey with the Niagara Falls Canucks, which he called “not a very good team.” He was a forward until age 15, when his minor midget coach, Rick Ferroni, moved him back so he’d get more time with the puck.
Harpur had about two months of experience on the point when the Guelph Storm took him 43rd overall in the 2011 OHL draft.
“When I was 15, I barely knew what the OHL was,” he says. “Everything took off pretty quickly.”
So, too, did his frame. In Grade 10, Harpur stood about five-foot-nine. By the time he was drafted, he was six-foot-three.
“I had some growing pains, but I knew it was coming,” he said. “My dad’s six-foot-six, so I knew I was gonna shoot up eventually.”
That height and reach is certainly a welcome addition for the Senators. Harpur uses a custom-made stick that’s three or four inches taller than regulation (he’s not sure, exactly).
But what has impressed coach Guy Boucher most is Harpur’s composure. “He’s got so much poise handling the puck, and protecting it and making the play,” Boucher said.
“Since Christmas, all I kept hearing was ‘this guy’s ready, this guy’s more than ready,’” the coach added. “We brought him up at the end [of the regular season] under a lot of pressure. We were missing three of our top four Ds, and he played up there longer than 20 minutes in all aspects of the game. And he was unbelievable.