Like any NCAA rookie, Kevin Roy was eager for the start of his first year of college hockey. His excitement shone through in his debut with Northeastern University, where the Quebec native scored the game-winner and added an assist to help his new team earn the win against Merrimack.
Immediate success notwithstanding, Roy may have also been anxious for the season to begin for a completely different reason: after the summer that he has had, the comforting familiarity of the rink is more than likely a welcome sight.
Ever since the final horn sounded on his USHL career on May 7th, 2012, Roy has been incredibly busy. Coming off a record breaking year with the Lincoln Stars, Roy led the league in scoring with the highest point total since the USHL became a Tier 1 league in 2002. In fact, his 104 points was the highest total in league history since 1988-89 when John Young scored 107 points. Furthermore, Roy's 54 goals were also the most in USHL Tier 1 history and again the most since 1988-89 when Mark Karpen netted 54, as well. All told, Roy was named the USHL Player of the Year and headed toward the 2012 NHL Draft with high expectations.
After being passed over in the first year he was eligible to be drafted, Roy was recognized as one of the top prospects available this time around and was invited to attend the NHL Draft Combine at the end of May. At the draft, Roy heard his name called in the fourth round, 97th overall. The team drafting him was Anaheim, but that was hardly a surprise for Roy, who had been talking with the Ducks prior to the draft and had a feeling he might end up in southern California.
"I really liked the people I talked to before the draft and I was really happy I ended up there," said Roy.
Roy describes himself as an offensive player and continues by saying, "I like to control the puck, create things for my line mates, go to the net and take the puck to the net, finding those dirty areas to score goals."
Back when he was a 13-year-old, Roy first made headlines for an Internet viral video that showcased his shootout moves.
"I used to be a shooter at hockey schools,” explains Roy, “So I kind of developed those skills by myself, just playing around. It's what I like to do, so I just starting trying new things that I saw here and there and then just started creating my own stuff. It's funny how it ended up. That one year, it was a skills competition at a tournament down in Maine and one player per team had to go. So I asked my coach if I could do it. Can I try something? He said, ‘Sure go ahead,’ because he saw what I could do in practice. One week later, it was on the Internet and I didn't know who put it on, just a fan. I didn't even know what YouTube was at the time! My friend called me and said I was on YouTube, and to check it out. I had nothing to do with that, but it ended up being pretty crazy. It was on sports shows, morning shows. It was a pretty fun experience."
A few weeks after the draft, Roy had another chance to put those skills on display when he attended the Ducks conditioning camp along with many of Anaheim's other prospects. While he was there, the 5'9”, 170-pound forward received some clear direction on what the Ducks wanted to see from him as he continued to develop: "Just get bigger. They don't care how tall I am; as long as I'm stronger, heavier, put on some weight, and then I'll hopefully end up pretty well."
One of his fellow Ducks prospects at the conditioning camp was Anaheim’s sixth round draft pick from 2011, Josh Manson. A defensive defenseman for Northeastern University, Manson is now Roy's teammate but at the time of the conditioning camp, the newly-drafted Roy was due to attend Brown University in the fall.
Despite this commitment, rumors were already swirling that Roy would not be hitting the ice with the Bears for the upcoming school year. That news became official in late July when Roy decommitted from Brown and then in early August, it was announced that both Roy and his older brother Derick, who at the time was attending Brown, would be joining Northeastern.
Roy explains his decision by saying, "I just think it was better for me when it comes to hockey and my future. It's not that Brown wasn't a good place, because it really is, great school, great coaches and a great program, too. They've been producing three guys in the last three years into the NHL. I just think for me and for my brother and my family, we just thought that Northeastern was a better choice. We have people there that we feel comfortable about and we have good reasons to go there."
Before making the decision, Roy made sure that he had the full support of the Ducks.
"They just said that whatever I do, they supported me. Is Brown a bad place? No, it's a really good place. Is there maybe a better place for you to play hockey? Yes, there is, but do whatever you want and we'll support you. We drafted you because we really liked you and no matter where you play, as long as you really want to develop, it doesn't matter to us."
At the time, there were also strong whispers floating around that Roy might jump to the CHL, perhaps joining the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL. Despite the prospect of playing in front of a hometown crowd, Roy denies that jumping to junior hockey was ever really something he considered.
"There was a lot of talk and rumours, but it was never an option for us."
As a Canadian who played first in the USHL and now in the NCAA, Roy is a bit of a rarity, but he defends his decision to go the college route with a mature nod to his future.
"My brother and I have always been good at school," said Roy, "So there was no reason for us to quit school and just focus on hockey when you can do both at the same time and then rely on school if hockey doesn't work out. That was the main part and we've been good at school since then. We're going to Northeastern; it's one of the good schools on the East Coast. If, after two or three years, hockey doesn't work out, then I'll have a business degree to fall back on and a lot of guys just don't have that."
At Northeastern, Roy and his brother will be reunited, but this isn't the first time they played together.
"When I was younger, we played in pee-wee and stuff. And then in Quebec City, at L'Academie Saint-Louis, I played with him for two years. I think we bring out the best in each other and it's really fun to play together. He's going to be my roommate and a few of the players from the Lincoln Stars are going there, too. Some of the guys that I played with before. So it should be a fun year."
Shortly after the decision to attend Northeastern was announced, Roy hit the road yet again, this time as a member of Team Canada. Named to the national junior team for the Canada-Russia Challenge, Roy found himself on the ice alongside some of the best junior players from both Canada and Russia.
"There's so much talent on the ice, it's crazy to be out there and have the opportunity to play with those guys and against those guys," said Roy at the time.
The series started with two games in Russia, followed by a corresponding pair in Canada. One of the main things that Roy noticed from the games in Russia was the effect of playing on the bigger, Olympic-sized ice surface.
"We had more space but they had more space, too. They're really skilled, so they had more room to do pretty plays."
In the end, it was the Canadians who came out victorious, winning an exciting overtime match-up in Halifax to break the series tie. Roy's impact in the series was minimal. He only appeared in two of the four matches and was held without a point.
More importantly, the Canada-Russia Challenge is also being used by Hockey Canada as a part of the evaluation process to pick this year's World Junior team. Roy's play in the series, coupled with the fact that Hockey Canada might have the luxury of having all eligible players available for selection due to the NHL lockout makes the 19-year-old a long shot at this point in time. But if he continues to score at will with Northeastern, things could change dramatically between now and the winter selection camp in December.
Follow Kevin Forbes on Twitter via @kforbesy