In a day and time when athletes will frequently jump at their earliest chance for the big money, it is refreshing when a young man decides to finish out his program, to complete his degree before moving on to the big-time. Boston College senior centerman, Jeff Farkas, has decided to finish his senior season this year, rather than try to make that big jump into the pool, prematurely.
One could argue, how much more does he have to prove? His team has been to the NCAA finals in his sophomore season and to the Frozen Four again last year. His 32 goal junior season tied him for second in the country in goals-scored. He has scored big goals in big games on numerous occasions. “Scoring the game-winning goal in the Beanpot tournament in Boston as a freshman was one of my biggest thrills in college hockey”, says Jeff.
Jeff has led Team USA and tied for the tournament lead in goals-scored, with current NHL player Olli Jokinen, in the 1998 World Juniors Championship. He has scored 56 goals in 118 NCAA games with one of the nation’s top collegiate teams. What is left to do?
“I’m committed to help to lead our squad this season. As a senior, I want to lead by example and help the younger players on the team. I want to contribute to the success of our team and have a shot to play for the national championship again”, Jeff states. Couple that with the fact that coach, Jerry York, emphasizes that his players get their degree and you see that Boston College is the right place for Jeff, for one more go-around.
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him in the 3rd round with the 57th overall selection in the 1997 NHL entry draft. The scouting report on Jeff touted him has an extremely talented player who had questionable size, strength and hockey instincts. Those questions caused him to drop in the draft, particularly after he was ranked as the 25th top prospect in his draft year by the Central Scouting Bureau and the 40th top prospect by The Hockey News. The Leafs, who had traded away picks in the first two rounds of that draft, were glad he fell to them at that spot.
Chris MacDonald, former Leafs’ prospects coach, saw him develop his game over the last two years. “Jeff has taken the god-given skills that he has; the speed, the puckhandling and the shot, and learned to blend them into the team game which is hockey. You can credit coach York’s work with him and Jeff’s excellent work ethic for that development to his game”, he says.
Jeff first started skating at the age of 2 as his father owned a hockey store in upstate New York, near Buffalo. “It was a natural that I began to play hockey. My parents were certainly my biggest influence early in life. My dad was my coach for many of those early years,” states Jeff. “Steve Yzerman was a player I tried to pattern myself after growing up”, he adds.
“I spent a lot of time playing hockey up in Canada, but I always had designs on going to college. My decision to attend Boston College was certainly the right one for me”, says Jeff. He followed up two productive years with Niagra Falls at the Metro Toronto Junior A level with a good freshman year at BC, scoring 13 goals and 23 assists in 35 games. That led to his sophomore year when he scored 11 goals and 28 assists in 40 games and helped his team reach the NCAA finals.
Jeff was listed at 6-0, 162 lbs. as a freshman, but has diligently worked on adding muscle to his frame over the last two years. “Our team stays together during the summer, informally. We work out in the weight room in the morning and take to the ice in the afternoon”, states Jeff. “I’ve also worked a lot on my dry-land speed to increase my skating explosiveness. I’ve worked hard to increase my size, strength and speed.” He has definitely accomplished that.
“Jeff is a legitimate 190 lbs. without sacrificing any speed whatsoever”, stated MacDonald at the Leafs’ post-draft prospects camp in July, 1999. “He is one of the few players who actually can pick up speed with the puck. Glenn Healy was watching him at our camp and stated that he’s only seen one other player who actually picks up speed when he has the puck, and that was Pat Lafontaine,” he adds.
Jeff paid his own way to the Leafs’ prospects camp this past summer and he came away leaving an excellent impression. “The Maple Leafs have liked the fact that I’ve added some muscle. I think they are pleased with my improvement in my ability to handle the puck. They would like to see me add a bit more to my defensive game, however”, he states. “My increased size and strength gives me more confidence out there especially when I’m battling along the boards or in the corner”, Farkas adds.
Jeff has a feisty, physical edge to his game as well. His increased strength will allow him to be more effective along the boards, a trait that he has already exhibited at the NCAA level. In evaluating his skills, a few within the Leafs’ system feel that Farkas might make a good winger despite the fact that he has played center most of his life. “He has the speed, shot and offensive skills to be an impact player in the NHL. He would certainly project to the wing as well as center”, states MacDonald. “When he receives that outlet pass around his blueline, he has the speed to fly through the netural zone. He will put a move on the defenseman and he is in on goal. He has the skills to finish the play and score the goal”, he adds.
Simon Gray, BC hockey media director states, “He has some of the same knack as a Brett Hull to find and jump into the openings on the ice to get off his good shot. He wants the puck in the big game and in the tight situations with the game on the line.”
Can he make the jump from NCAA hockey to the NHL when his season and career ends this next spring? “I’m not looking beyond this year, but playing in the NHL has long been a dream of mine. There are no guarantees, of course, and a lot will depend on how the Leafs feel at that point. They simply might not have a spot for me right away, so I will do what it takes. For now, I’m focused on the 99-00 season with BC”, he states.
Jeff Farkas has always had the speed and skills to be a legitimate NHL prospect. He has worked very hard to develop the size and strength to go along with those skills. His years at Boston College have taught him how to better read the play and utilize those skills within the framework of team play. Will it be enough? The expectations for Jeff Farkas are very high. He does appear to have the desire, the ability and now the size and strength to be an NHL player. But first and foremost, he still is a Boston College Eagle, and rightfully so, that is where his focus remains, for now. The NHL will wait.
Special thanks to Jeff Farkas for his time in conducting this interview.
Special thanks to Chris MacDonald and Simon Gray for their time in conducting this interview.
Source: Boston College hockey website