Roy lives up to expectations in freshman season at Northeastern

By DJ Powers

Kevin Roy - Northeastern University

Photo: After leading the USHL in scoring in 2011-12, Anaheim Ducks prospect Kevin Roy brought his scoring exploits to Northeastern University and did not disappoint (courtesy of Jim Pierce)

Northeastern’s 2012-13 season officially came to an end a little over a week ago with consecutive losses to Boston University, but the Huskies saw their playoff aspirations dashed the previous weekend after losing to and tying Maine in a two-game set. For freshman sensation Kevin Roy (ANA), the season ended even sooner as an injury sidelined him for Northeastern’s final five games.

“I’m doing good,” Roy said of his progress. “I’ve been doing a lot of rehab. It’s important that I take care of it so that I can focus on what’s coming up this summer and start on my workouts again.”

The Lac-Beauport, QC native finishes the season as one of the nation’s top rookies with 34 points (17 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games. And while his freshman campaign has come to an end, the accolades will continue to come Roy’s way. He is certain to be named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and could potentially win the Hockey East Rookie of the Year honor, as well. In addition, Roy had been battling Miami’s Riley Barber (WSH) in the hotly contested national rookie-scoring race for much of the season.

As good as Roy was in the first half of the season, he was even better in the second half. His most memorable performance came in the Beanpot Tournament, posting five goals that included his first career hat trick. Roy was named the Beanpot MVP and became the first player since 2004 to garner the honor while playing for a team that did not win the tournament.

Roy and his older brother, Derick, had originally committed to playing for Brown University. When the two decommitted later, several schools began heavily recruiting them, including Northeastern. The Roy brothers opted to come to Huntington Avenue because it provided several great opportunities, including the chance to play in the city of Boston.

“My brother and I were supposed to go to Brown this past fall, but after a long thought process and everything we decided to decommit from there because we just thought that it was the right decision,” explained Roy. “Brown is an unbelievable school and they have a great hockey program, but we felt that we could have a better balance between hockey and school elsewhere. After we decommitted, there was a lot of interest in both of us and at the end of the day, we felt like Northeastern was the right place and perfect situation for us. We wanted the opportunity to play for a great school and program, to play in Hockey East and in the Beanpot. And just being able to play in the city of Boston was also a big factor in our final decision.”

The younger Roy successfully lived up to and exceeded expectations this season. He made a relatively easy transition to the college game and had an immediate impact on the Huskies team. As head coach Jim Madigan explains, Roy’s quick transition to the college game didn’t come as a surprise to him.

“I knew that Kevin would be a very good player for us,” said Madigan. “And the reason why I thought that he would make the transition quickly to college hockey is because, when he went from prep school to the USHL last year, he not only made the transition, but also blew the transition away in terms of being the leading scorer. Kevin is such a good player that he rises to the greatest level of the competition very quickly. So by making the transition from prep school to the USHL, I knew that Kevin would make that transition (to college) quickly and I wasn’t surprised that he was able to do that so quickly. I am absolutely happy because I thought that there would be an earlier period when he would have to get acclimated to college hockey. But instead he was an impact right off the bat. Through it all, earlier this season Kevin was nursing some nagging injuries that I think prevented him from reaching an even higher level.”

While Roy was aware of the hype that surrounded him coming into college hockey, it was also something that he never gave much thought to.

“Well, I don’t think living up to the hype was a factor for me because I knew in my head that I was going to do well,: said Roy. “I don’t think I was nervous about what I needed to do during the season. I felt that I had to become smarter, try and play a big role, apply myself on defense and stuff like that. And I think those were all things that I’ve had to work on throughout the year. I didn’t feel that I had to get this many points in order to live up to what people think. I really don’t put a lot of focus on that. All I try to do is just help my team be successful.”

Roy had played much of the year alongside senior Vinny Saponari (WPG). The chemistry that the two wingers had was magical, accounting for a good chunk of Northeastern’s offense. Playing with Saponari also provided Roy an opportunity to learn.

“I think Vinny is a smart player; he really thinks the game a different way because he slows down the play and makes people wonder what he’s going to do,” said Roy of his linemate. “He makes me wonder what he’s going to do sometimes too. (Laughs) I just think that he’s a great player. He’s a good defensive player and good on the power-play too. I think the biggest thing that he’s taught me is the importance of coming to play and work hard every day. Vinny’s seen a lot and done lots of things (in college hockey), so he knows how to be a successful part of the team. He brings that to our team and I think he’s shown that every day.”

Roy’s combination of elite-level offensive skills, great vision and hockey sense have been attributes that have and will continue to serve him well. But like all other young players, continuing to develop physically and rounding out his game are keys to future success. And it is something that Roy has been focused on since arriving at Northeastern.

“I’ve had to become smarter, try and play a big role, apply myself on defense and stuff like that,” admitted Roy. “I think those were all things that I’ve had to work on throughout the year. You can teach defense, so it’s not something that I worry about because I’m really confident that I can do it. But, I think the most important thing for me is to get bigger and stronger. I need to put on some weight and get stronger so that I can better compete against those bigger guys. I think that will also help me in being able to better fight off opposing defensemen and create more space for myself, too. This year, I’ve seen how important it is. Working hard in practice and doing all of the right things every day is important because I know that if I keep doing that, I’ll be able to move forward and be successful.”

A part of Roy’s game that developed quite well over the course of the season is his play away from the puck. As Madigan explains, it is one of several areas of Roy’s game that he has seen marked improvements in.

“I think Kevin’s gotten better at just reading situations defensively and has gotten better with his play away from the puck'” said Madigan of his prized freshman. “He knew that he had to spend a little more time in that area of his game and be a little more focused there. Another area where I think Kevin has gotten better has been in his wall play in his own zone. He’s also improved in having more defensive awareness too.”

“Offensively, Kevin doesn’t have many weaknesses,” continued Madigan. “He’s intelligent and obviously he’s got a good feel for the puck. He can score goals, make plays, and has very good vision. I guess for Kevin it’s about the maturation process. There are times when he’ll just dominate each and every shift. And then there are times when Kevin is very good, but for whatever reason won’t dominate. So as he matures, he’ll be able to dominate each and every shift that he’s on the ice because he’s got the ability to do that. I think that’s one thing that Kevin will continue to work at. He’s focusing on doing that and taking control of every shift. Very few players have that ability to take over a shift and Kevin does have that ability.”

Like all other amateur players, Roy also has NHL players that he follows closely. So who is his favorite NHL player?

“I have a lot of NHL players that I really like, so there isn’t just one that I can say is my favorite,” admitted Roy. “I like Martin St. Louis, Danny Briere, Sidney Crosby and Brad Richards. Those guys are pretty special. I’d say that I try to pattern my style after Danny Briere because he’s a smaller guy that can score a lot of goals and is just in the right place at the right moment. He also scores a lot of clutch goals, is always there to help his team win and does everything the right way. And those are all the things that I try to do too.”

At the 2012 NHL Draft, the Anaheim Ducks selected Roy in the fourth round (97th overall). While he wasn’t sure which team he would wind up going to, Roy is elated to be a part of the Ducks organization.

“When you come into the Draft, you never know where you’ll end up,” said Roy of the Draft experience. “I didn’t really care when I was picked or which team was going to select me. I was glad that it ended the way it did for me and I’m just looking forward to working with the Anaheim organization.”

Roy attended the Ducks' prospect camp following the Draft last summer and notes that he learned several valuable lessons that he was able to bring to Northeastern this season.

“One of the things that they stressed was just working hard and getting better every day,” said Roy. “They just want me to keep working on improving my weaknesses and continue to play to my strengths. Two other things that I learned are how to be professional in the way I conduct myself on and off the ice and just be focused on achieving my goals.”

Anaheim has also kept closed tabs on Roy throughout the year.

“I have had contact with them; I think they pretty much keep in contact with all of their prospects'” said Roy of the Ducks organization. “They always make sure that they know where I’m at (in my development) and they have seen me play this year. So I think that’s been really good.”

With his phenomenal rookie season over, the looming question now is where will he be playing next season? Roy intends to return to Northeastern in the fall.

“As of right now, I’m definitely coming back to Northeastern next year,” stated Roy. “I’m happy here and do want to be here next year so that I can help my team have success. I don’t think there’s a rush to move on.”

Madigan also believes that Roy will return next season.

“I’m very confident that he’ll return,” said the Huskies' head coach. “I think Kevin realizes that the college game is a great place and gives him a great opportunity to develop his skill set, work on areas that he needs improvement in as well as work on improving his physical strength. I think Anaheim likes the way that college hockey develops their players. Kevin is logging a lot of minutes for us. He’s averaging 25-26 minutes per game, so he’s getting an opportunity to play in a lot of situations. I’m confident that Kevin wants to come back next year to dominate, take over the game and help lead our team.”

If what he has shown this season is any indication, Kevin Roy has a very bright future ahead of him. Regardless of where he plays next season, one thing is certain – Kevin Roy will continue to dazzle and electrify everywhere he goes.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF