It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old!
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2018).
At #13, Boston’s own Patrick Harper.
Harper finished his sophomore season at Boston University in the press box with a mysterious illness that hit him shortly after the World Junior Championship in December. Harper had a streaky season that dismantled the preseason Hobey Baker talk that followed him but still finished as a point-per-game player.
By The Numbers
Harper is a unique prospect in that he is one of few in the organization’s history that took a traditional high school an college route to the pros. But, he’s dominated at almost every level. In 49 career high school games, Harper recorded 40 goals and 106 points. In 58 collegiate games, Harper has 21 goals and 58 points. He’s shined on the international stage for Team USA and is one of the best pure scorers in college hockey.
Despite the unfortunate ending to his season, Harper finished 8th among drafted forwards in the NCAA last season in points-per-game. Over the past two seasons combined, Harper is 15th in points-per-game among U21 NCAA forwards. He’s had a good start to his collegiate year, but we should expect a monster season from him in 2018-19.
This is just a quick clip of a goal that Harper has shown he is adept at. He is well equipped to bury wrist shots from the high slot and has done so frequently in college and internationally.
Above is a display of Harper’s impressive speed and patience with the puck. He draws three defensive players towards him and waits them out with very good puck-handling to set up a goal.
Harper is a wizard with the puck on the half-wall. He uses his edges and stick work expertly to find open shooting lanes. The clip above reminds me a lot of Eeli Tolvanen’s skillset.
As it goes with collegiate players, the organization holds Harper’s rights until August 15, 2020. I anticipate they will make a strong push to sign him before then - likely this coming summer.
Harper, to me, can be a legitimate middle-6 scorer in the NHL. As Corey Pronman writes:
He has high-end skill and even better offensive IQ. There are shifts during the season where he can seemingly go through three defenders and then make a ridiculous pass to set up a chance. He has all the skill to be a legitimate scorer at the pro level.
I’m not all that concerned about his size, but there are points of his game - back-checking, puck support in the neutral zone, and winning puck battles - that need more consistency.