Wyllum Deveaux is not your average Harvard commit, his road to Cambridge was unique. He grew up in Nova Scotia with his family but moved at the age of 14 to play bantam and minor midget hockey in the most revered league in North America, the Greater Toronto Hockey League. He joined the storied Don Mills Flyers, one of the elite bantam and minor midget programs in the Toronto area. They have produced NHL stars like Anson Carter, Kris Draper, Scott Mellanby and Rick Tocchet to name a few. Most recently they have seen a surge in first round NHL draft picks in Mitch Marner (4th overall, 2015), Max Domi (12th overall, 2013) and Darnell Nurse (7th overall, 2013). However, while Don Mills does have a history of sending players to the NCAA, the majority of their prospects take the OHL route and have gone on to have great careers. Deveaux decided last week that he would follow in the footsteps of another Don Mills alumni Dominic Moore and commit to Harvard University. We caught up with Wyllum and asked him about his decision. A full Q&A below:
You have an interesting background coming from the Nova Scotia area, then heading to Don Mills Flyers for Bantams and Midget Minor hockey and the Hill Academy. Explain your youth career and why you made the moves you have made up to this point. Why did you head to the GTHL and what are your plans for next year?
It’s been a fun ride getting the opportunities to play where I played over the past couple of seasons. Hockey in Nova Scotia was lots of fun and there have been so many people from there that have been influential in my hockey career. The amount of knowledgeable hockey people from Nova Scotia is so impressive and I am lucky to have learned and developed under their watch. Led by SMU coach Trevor Steinburg, they have made me the hockey player I am today. When I got the opportunity from my current coach Daniel Bochner to come play for Don Mills, I really looked into it and realized that it was a great opportunity hockey wise. The Don Mills organization was great. It gave me lots of exposure and it was quite cool to play for such a great organization with such amazing alumni. Also, I have had great and memorable experience studying at Hill Academy. They are very supportive of our high academic and hockey goals. I’ve met a lot of great people since attending the school including one class mate who is also headed to Harvard. My plans for next year are not finalized but currently my goal is to attend the Tri City Storm tryouts and battle to earn a spot on their roster.
While playing in the GTMMHL, I am sure you received a lot of pressure to play in the OHL. You were certainly a top/middle round talent, but fell to the later rounds. Did you tell OHL teams you were leaning towards college hockey? Is it difficult to go against the grain as many of your teammates will end up playing in the CHL?
Yes, I did receive lots of pressure but in the end I felt college was the best route for me. This is by no means a slight towards the OHL because it is an incredible league. It was probably one of the toughest decisions in my life so far. My decision was made well ahead of the draft and I was clear with every team (that asked) that I was definitely going the NCAA route. The teams were very respectful of my decision which reflects well on them, because there is a lot of great people in that league and I see how hard scouts work year round. The OHL draft is really their day to shine so I did not want to see them burnt by selecting me with a higher pick and me not reporting.
Our scouts love your size and skill, what do you feel are the best qualities of your game?
I feel my playmaking ability and play below the goal line is what makes me as a player. I love to make plays that help teammates bury the puck, but of course I also love to bury goals myself. I’m at my best when I’m playing an up-tempo puck possession game. I am also told I play a good 200 foot game.
What are you looking to improve upon next season and beyond before arriving at Harvard University?
One of the main things I’m looking to improve in my game is consistent intensity, quickness and speed. With a lot of hard work, on and off the ice, in the off season I know I can improve these areas to really prepare myself for the junior and collegiate levels. Intensity is more of a mental aspect and I just need to make sure while I’m skating in the summer I keep my tempo up and keep pushing the pace.
Explain your college recruitment process. When did colleges start reaching out to you?
I first started talking to colleges last spring while playing in the Pre-Draft tournament where I was exploring Prep schools. Later that fall, I went on my first visit to a few schools in and around the Boston area, touring several unbelievable campuses, including Harvard. This was my first real exposure to college hockey in the United States and I was amazed by the hockey itself, the facilities and the people we met. The schools were like nothing I had ever seen before and the facilities were unbelievable. It was great hearing what the different coaches had to say as well; they were all great coaches and had a lot to offer. I also talked to several other schools throughout this past winter season, but was always focused on the east coast schools. Harvard was the first school I visited and for me Harvard has been my dream since a very young age. I’ve wanted to play hockey there since meeting Craig MacDonald, Harvard alum, who was playing for Tampa Bay at the time. So after that visit I was convinced that’s where I wanted to go even though I kept my options open through the winter season. By the time the OHL Draft came around, I still felt Harvard was where I wanted to go and that’s where I felt was the best fit for me, personally.
When I first toured Harvard and met with Coach Donato, Pearl and Rassey, I knew this was where I would be going and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. It was honestly the coolest day of my life so far. I realized how passionate the coaches were about developing hockey players while pursuing an education at the same time and it’s pretty clear why they are developing pros such as their most recent Hobey Baker recipient, Jimmy Vesey. Harvard isn’t just the best school in the world, it is also a world class hockey program, one that I am really looking forward to being a part of in the future.
The Harvard coaches were also very good throughout the process, Coach Rassey came to watch me play multiple times throughout the year and Coach Donato checked in regularly with me and my family to answer questions and confirm their interest. It felt great to finally give him my commitment earlier this week. There is lots of work left to do, but it is a big first step.
Do you know what you might be interested in studying while at Harvard?
I enjoy the sciences so far and the business world is interesting. I enjoy following the stick market. At this point, I am undecided what I want to study at Harvard.
There are a lot of young, talented 2000 birth year hockey players who have recently committed to Harvard such as Bode Wilde, Jack Drury, Oliver Wahlstrom and now yourself. What do you think is making Harvard a popular destination among some the premiere young players in the US/CAN?
I believe many people are starting to realize how great the hockey program at Harvard is and seeing them recently produce many great players at the NHL level such as Alex Killorn, Dominic Moore, and recent captain and future NHLer Jimmy Vesey. It’s a place where high end hockey prospects can play and develop into pros while they get a degree from one of the top schools in the world. This was one of the main reasons I made my decision to attend this school and I’m sure was also a contributor in the others decisions.
Why NCAA over OHL? You obviously have opportunities to do either, what made you chose the NCAA route? Will you attend camp for 48 hrs for Peterborough?
I have always had a goal of playing in the NHL but also always dreamt of going to Harvard. When I realized that I could possibly attend Harvard and also be part of a great hockey program, which would give me an opportunity to develop and give myself a great shot to play in the NHL following my time at Harvard, the choice was clear. Harvard was where I wanted to go. Having watched the OHL and now talking with them, we met some great hockey people and organizations and I saw all the opportunities the OHL provides along with great education packages. The CHL is a great league and I knew either route would be a great choice but in the end Harvard was where I’ve wanted to go since I was young. The idea of a Harvard education is a dream come true!