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Erie's Harper helping future star

by Mike G. Morreale
                Connor McDavid, Erie Otters, OHL

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- In addition to the excitement of playing in his draft year and having an opportunity to take part in the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet), Erie Otters forward Stephen Harper also is looking ahead to the 2015 NHL Draft, when good friend and linemate Connor McDavid already is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick.

McDavid, granted exceptional-player status March 21, 2012, by Hockey Canada, allowing him to be eligible for the 2012 Ontario Hockey League draft at age 15 (a year earlier than other prospects), currently leads all first-year OHL players in scoring with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 38 games. He also was the youngest player ever to compete in the 10-year history of the Subway Super Series when he suited up for Team OHL against Russia on Nov. 8 in Guelph, Ont.

In an effort to make McDavid's first season less stressful, Harper, who serves as an alternate captain for Erie in his second season, asked team management if he could room with the young prodigy this season.

"He said he thought he could mentor him," Otters general manager Sherry Bassin said. "He did that without any encouragement. He came to me of his own free will. That's the character this kid has."

Harper, who has 10 goals and 24 points in 42 games, felt it was the proper thing to do.

"As a 15 year old, I don't think I could have done the same thing," Harper said. "Connor's done a great job so far. It's huge for my leadership. As a 17-year-old, you don't always get the option to wear the [alternate captain] 'A.' It has been good so far."

Harper and McDavid are billeting with the same family this season.

"It's been a great relationship, he's a great kid," Harper told "He's a high-end talent on the ice and he's nice off the ice. I can see him going high in the draft … he's definitely a contender for No. 1 overall and he expects that of himself. So he just needs to develop a few years and he'll be pretty good."

While Harper won't be the first pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, he is No. 38 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for this year's draft.

"He's got good energy and is creative out there … a play-making type of guy," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told "He played with McDavid and had good chemistry with him, and that was at a time when the team was struggling."


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