The next step Brant Harris has been waiting for finally happened.
The Estevan native and current Connecticut Huskies forward was invited to take part in the Washington Capitals' prospect development camp last week in Arlington, Va.
Harris, 22, caught the Capitals' eye as an undrafted free agent who finished second in scoring for the Huskies as a sophomore last season.
Harris found out late last month that he'd be participating in the camp, which are held by NHL teams in the summer to give an introduction to pro hockey to recent draft picks and free agents from the major junior and college ranks.
Most teams send invitations to late-blooming free agents who have piqued their interest and often end up offering minor-league contracts to some of those players.
"After the year I had, that was my goal, to get invited to a camp," said Harris. "More so to see where I am compared to other players throughout the organization. So it was good to get out there and see where I stand."
The former Estevan Bruin and Melfort Mustang is coming off a strong year at UConn, recording 18 goals and 33 points in 39 games.
That put him behind only Cole Schneider on the team's scoring list. Schneider recently signed with the Ottawa Senators.
Harris said that with the camp being held in July, it took a few days for the competition level to get high and that there were a lot of injuries.
"I didn't expect too much. I kinda thought since I was more so an older guy in the camp, I wanted to be physical and have an all-around game. Everything went according to plan," said the 6-foot-1, 205-pound right winger.
"It is in July so it's pretty tough to jump into intense games like that ... since we had such long days and intense workouts, there were a lot of injuries."
By the end of the camp, which began Monday and wrapped up Saturday, Harris was playing on a line with Caps' first-round pick Tom Wilson.
Harris said his meeting with team officials on Saturday was encouraging.
"They were pleased with how I played and happy with my testing. They said I have NHL speed. They're going to keep a close eye on me throughout the year and re-evaluate (next summer)."
A typical day at the development camp began at 6:30 a.m., with two sessions of either a practice or a gym workout, followed by a scrimmage at 3 p.m.
"They were tiring, but definitely a good experience."
One of the social activities for the 45 players was bowling, and Harris had the top score.
"I don't bowl much at all. I don't know how that happened," he laughed.
In a news release, UConn assistant coach David Berard said Harris is on the radar of NHL teams for good reason.
"He's an absolutely fabulous kid and a great leader. He has a tremendous work ethic and that's how he put himself on the radar of a lot of professional teams and why he has this chance," said Berard.
Harris, who will captain the Huskies next year, knows the upcoming season is an important one that could determine the future direction of his hockey career.
"It's an exciting time. Normally in the summer you don't get a lot of action. This is a big year coming up, as an individual and as a team."
With Schneider's departure, Harris is the top-scoring returning player for the Huskies, but he knows there are areas he needs to work on to give himself a better shot at playing pro hockey.
"I think just being stronger on the puck, I'm a big guy, so I gotta use my size as much as I can."
He said Schneider's absence "puts a little more weight on my shoulders. But I'm not the type of guy who's so concerned with points. I think I have other assets that can help the team."
With a chance of being offered a pro deal next summer, Harris said he would consider leaving Connecticut after his junior year.
"I think it all depends on what happens this year. It'd be pretty tough to turn down an offer. Worst case scenario, I finish out my four years and then go somewhere. It's all depending on this next year."
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