in anticipation of Harvard's first game of the season tomorrow:
Harvard’s Patrick McNally a real hockey D-light
By John Connolly
Thursday, October 18, 2012 - Updated 1 week ago
Patrick McNally sure knows how to leave a positive impression on those who watch him play.
Just ask his former coach at Milton Academy, his current coach at Harvard and the scouts of the Vancouver Canucks, all of whom thought enough of the defenseman to jump at the opportunity to add him to their teams.
The amazing thing about the 6-foot-2, 190-pound McNally is that he still has plenty of room to grow as a player.
“I think he has huge upside,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said of the 20-year-old from Glen Head, N.Y., who was drafted by the Canucks in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL draft with the 115th overall pick. “His skating is at an elite level. He’s really done it with a body that still has a lot of room to grow. I think he put on 10 pounds this summer. He still hasn’t filled out. He’s gotten by on just his hockey sense and skating ability and, as his physical strength improves and his shot improves, he’s only going to add more weapons to his offensive game. I think he’s one of those rare athletes where people looked at him in high school and said, ‘Well, that’s fine but he’s not going to be able to do it at that next level’ and, so far, he has. I’m not so sure that at that next level (pro), for him, he’s not going to be able to do the same kind of thing.
“He led Milton Academy to the New England Championship so, to me, he kind of had that ‘it’ factor. He kind of picked up right where he left off in high school, and makes it a lot easier than it actually is.
“We’re excited. I think he’s a winner. He seems to elevate in the biggest of games and the key moments in the games so we’re excited about his progress.”
Milton Academy coach Paul Cannata recalled the first time he watched McNally in action. Cannata had gone to scout another player in a junior league game in Long Island, N.Y., and kept noticing McNally, whose name and number weren’t listed on the roster.
“I kept asking, ‘Who’s this?’ ” said Cannata. “He had gone through a growth spurt and his (hockey) pants were about two feet above his knees. They told me he was only a sophomore. I said to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get after this kid.’ ”
Cannata’s efforts worked and McNally ended up at Milton Academy, leading the team to the New England prep school title as the top scorer on a team, which also featured defenseman Jake Turrin (Amherst College), goaltender Sean Dougherty (Williams College), and Bruins [team stats] draft pick Rob O’Gara (Yale University).
“We’ve won one New England (hockey) title in about 100 years and he was the key guy,” Cannata said. “He’s just a special kid. I call him a throwback kid because he just puts on his skates and goes out and plays. He has a lot of offense. He can freewheel and he handles the puck well. He plays with a love of the game.”
That love of the game, coupled with McNally’s skating ability, Has Donato smiling as Harvard gets ready for its season to start.
“For me, some of the more interesting and fun players to watch are because they play their own game,” Donato said. “They have their own style and I think he’s like that. At times, he’s our best forward on some nights because he’s up with the rush. He really hasn’t had to give up any of his defensive responsibilities to contribute offensively. I think he’s deceptively a great skater and he does it with what seems very little effort and he has an iron lung on some of those shifts.”
McNally was paired with Ryan Grimshaw on the blue line last year as part of Harvard’s nation-leading power-play unit (27.3 percent). He earned All-ECAC rookie honors and scored four goals and added 13 assists last season. He also tied for seventh in the ECAC, first among defensemen, with seven playoff points (1-6-7).
“I think, obviously, it was a good year for the team,” said McNally, whose Crimson squad plays an exhibition game at Bright Hockey Center tomorrow against McGill before opening its season for real on Oct. 27 hosting Bentley. “I think the freshmen adapted well. I think the upperclassmen deserve a lot of credit for making the freshmen feel comfortable. I think I learned to be more aware defensively, too. In high school, I could get away with getting caught up ice because I could skate fast enough to get back. But, here, there are a lot of fast guys so you have to be on your toes. I’m just trying to play my game. I know what to expect. I’m just trying to get better and better each day.”