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On Campus: Abruzzese turning heads at Harvard

Maple Leafs draft pick piling up points in freshman season

by Mark Divver / Independent Correspondent

It didn't take long for Nick Abruzzese to make a positive impression at Harvard University.

In the first game of the season on Nov. 1, the freshman forward set up two goals in less than four minutes in the second period, then added an empty-net goal late in a 7-3 win against Dartmouth University. 

He has been producing every weekend since. The 20-year-old is second in scoring for unbeaten Harvard (5-0-0) with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games.

Abruzzese (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round (No. 124) of the 2019 NHL Draft after being passed over in each of the previous two NHL drafts.

Originally committed to the University of Vermont, Abruzzese changed his commitment to Harvard in December 2018.

Abruzzese blossomed in the United States Hockey League. He had 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games for Chicago of the USHL in 2017-18, then had 80 points (29 goals, 51 assists) in 62 games last season, when he led the league in scoring.

"This kid is special,'' said Ryan Hardy, general manager of Chicago and a former amateur scout for the Boston Bruins. "I think he was always a very smart player and passionate about his hockey, but he was always small, and I don't know that anybody ever viewed him as an elite player until he got here.

"He worked on so many parts of his game. Some guys watch their game film on their own, in addition to what they do with coaches. He actually would watch and analyze his reps in practice.

"He always forced himself to make every drill game-like. Even in basic, nothing shooting drills, he would shoulder check pretending he had linemates with him. He was always thinking and creating to train his mind for the game. What a gift it was to have him.''

At Harvard, Abruzzese is playing on the top line alongside Jack Drury and Casey Dornbach. Drury, a center, was selected in the second round (No. 42) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2018 NHL Draft.

"Nick's super skilled, very competitive and he's one of these guys that passes the puck almost always at the right time," Harvard coach Ted Donato said. "He's equal part playmaker and goal scorer. 

"He's very slippery on the power play. He's got an element of speed, too. Not only is he deceptive, but he can go by you with speed, too. He's really been a huge addition so far.''


Puck stops here

Goalie Jeremy Swayman made 62 saves on 64 shots when the surprising University of Maine swept the University of New Hampshire last weekend.

The 21-year-old junior from Anchorage, Alaska, was selected by the Boston Bruins in the fourth round (No. 111) of the 2017 NHL Draft after playing for Sioux Falls of the USHL.

After losing 7-0 to Providence College in their season opener, Maine has gone 7-2-2 since and climbed into a second-place tie in Hockey East.

Swayman (6-2, 187) has been a big part of the success; he leads Hockey East with a .946 save percentage.


Winning ways

Evan Barratt is on a hot streak and so is Penn State University, which has won six of its past seven games.

The junior forward (6-0, 188) set up five goals in a road sweep of the University of Minnesota last weekend. He has seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past three games.

Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90) of the 2017 NHL Draft, the 20-year-old is tied for second in scoring for Penn State with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 11 games.


Cotton tales

Boston College has won five in a row, outscoring its opponents 22-4. Captain David Cotton (6-2, 200) has seven points (three goals, four assists) during the winning streak.

The 22-year-old senior was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the sixth round (No. 169) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

He leads Boston College with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 11 games.


Hobey Baker watch

Defenseman Scott Perunovich assisted on each of the four goals scored by the University of Minnesota Duluth in a split at Miami University last weekend.

The 21-year-old (5-9, 172), selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second round (No. 45) of the 2018 NHL Draft, has been a key component in Minnesota Duluth's back-to-back NCAA championships.

A junior, he leads Minnesota Duluth in scoring with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 10 games. 

Defenseman David Farrance of Boston University, chosen by the Nashville Predators in the third round (No. 92) of the 2017 NHL Draft, leads all NCAA Division I defensemen with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 11 games.

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