After a couple of months of speculation, it's now official. Harvard's top scorer, rookie Louis Leblanc, will forgo his remaining three years of college eligibility in order to sign a three year professional contract with the Montreal Canadiens. It is believed that Leblanc will be sent by the Habs to the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL, who earlier this summer traded for the young Quebec native, at least according to RDS Canada (link, French), as well as TSN. Both TSN and the Canadiens own website confirm the signing, though as per the club policy, no terms of the deal were released.
For Harvard, as we highlighted when these rumors first started swirling, this leaves the Crimson in a pinch. Last year's 9th placed Harvard team will now have to replace its top two centers (with Doug Rogers graduating), with no incoming forwards scheduled for this year's incoming class. That leaves P.O. Michaud and Colin Moore as the two most experienced centermen, but the two are injury risks and missed 25 games combined last season, presumably for health reasons, and there is little depth behind them in terms of quantity. We expect to see Alex Fallstrom and Luke Greiner to get increased time at center, along with David Valek, but not a great situation for a team that struggled at the face off dot. Harvard now also loses their top scorer, and it's top productive line, the West Island Connection, will need to be redistributed, hurting chemistry. With no exhibition game currently on tap (though we still believe one is in the works), Coach Donato will no longer be able to rely on the instant chemistry of that line to give a boost against Union and RPI, teams that will have played for about a month when they come to the Bright Center to open Harvard's regular season and ECAC campaigns. Just about everything will have to be recreated on the drawing board, and the Crimson had plenty of work to do anyway, as they were 47th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 2.48 goals per game. They need to get the puck in the net more, and now they need to find other players to do it. Lastly, of course, there's a question of recruiting- a first round NHL prospect is a rare get for Harvard, but it will be even harder now to get that level of talent when the whole hockey world has seen Leblanc get out of Cambridge after a whole year, with the collective opinion of the mainstream hockey media world behind him. It will be interesting to see the level of talent Coach Donato can bring in for future years in spite of that.
We'll have more on the Louis Leblanc story here on the blog and on Twitter.com/WHRBSports as things get closer to our season previews for hockey, or if any news breaks. As for Harvard fans (or fans of rivals) let us know what you think- do you think Louis should have stayed? And what's your emotion toward this signing? Let us know in the comments or send a tweet to @whrbsports.
Here's hoping this decision works out for Louis.