Healthy Fallstrom brings offense, leadership to Harvard lineup

By Richard Murray

Alex Fallstrom - Harvard Uniersity

Photo: Boston Bruins prospect Alex Fallstrom is off to a good start in his senior season at Harvard University (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

After fighting injuries during his first two seasons at Harvard, Alex Fallstrom has been able to stay healthy and has turned himself into a reliable, two-way hockey player at the collegiate level.

During his first two seasons with the Crimson, Fallstrom suffered from not only a high ankle sprain but also a separated shoulder. Last season he was healthy, though, and Fallstrom turned in 13 goals and 12 assists in 25 games for the Crimson.

“Staying healthy last season really helped Fallstrom establish himself,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said of Fallstrom. “Those kinds of injuries can nag and stay with you for months. Alex was poised for a breakout season, and I expect more of the same this year.”

A native of Sweden, Fallstrom, is off to a quick start already for Harvard with three points in as many games. 

Fallstrom was a 2009 fourth round selection of the Minnesota Wild, but was traded to the Boston Bruins. The trade sent Chuck Kobasew to the Wild for Fallstrom, a second round pick, and Craig Weller.

“The trade caught me off guard a little bit, and I was definitely surprised,” Fallstrom said. “I am happy to be with such a great organization now, though.”

Fallstrom has been able to participate in the Bruins’ summer development camps over the past couple of summers. There are some important aspects of the camp because he gets to fine-tune his play against some of the top talent around.

“There is a benefit there because you get to see where some of the other top prospects are at, you also get to gauge upon where you are at, and what you need to work at,” Donato said.

“To be exposed to that kind of environment certainly gives you the motivation to improve and to get to that level, so there are some great advantages to those camps.”

Although Fallstrom’s offensive skills are starting to come into form, he may be better known for his defensive prowess.

“Alex has made some great strides, and we can count on him in all situations,” Donato said. “He is very thorough defensively. We count on him in all situations, and no matter what situation we are in he is a guy we are excited to open the gate for. His work ethic and character should make for a very bright future.”

Fallstrom’s defensive abilities are exceptional, but he has been doing a lot of work to try to take his offensive game to the next level too.

“He moves very well, he has great speed, he has a great release on his shot, and when he gets on the outside he can really wind-it-up,” Donato said of Fallstrom’s skills. “In the corners he has gotten better at protecting the puck, and being able to cut back while using his size in the tight areas.”

The Swede takes a lot of pride in his defensive game, and he has learned to put a little bit of Detroit Red Wings’ forward Johan Franzen game into his own.

“I take pride in my defensive game because everything starts in the defensive zone, and I want to lay a good foundation with my defensive game and go from there,” he said. “I try to take stuff out of Johan Franzen’s game and put it into my own by using his grit and work ethic, which often pay off.”

As a senior Fallstrom has taken on a leadership role because he is a veteran, but Coach Donato has also trusted him to don the “A.”

“It is a great honor, and it comes naturally sometimes being a senior,” Fallstrom said. “I just want to lead the guys in the right direction and also by example.”

One of the biggest challenges some European challengers face is the transition from the European game to the American style of play. Luckily for Fallstrom it was not a hard transition, and he may actually be better suited for the American style of play. Playing his high school hockey in Minnesota probably made playing at Harvard that much easier, too.

“The biggest part of the transition was the rinks because of the difference in size,” Fallstrom said. “The rinks here are a lot smaller, which means the game is faster. I adjusted to it pretty quickly, though, and I think the American style of play benefits my game better.”

Staying in college for four seasons has allowed Fallstrom to round his game into form while also learning from Donato, a former Boston Bruins player who knows what it takes to compete in the NHL.

“The Bruins just want me to develop, and that is what I have been able to do here because they have not put a lot of pressure on me to turn pro,” Fallstrom said.

“Donato is a great coach, and he played in the pros for a long time. He knows what it takes to get to the professional level and stay, so hopefully he prepares me to do that too.

Follow Richard Murray on twitter: https://twitter.com/Richie_Murray