Like many hockey families, Jerry Harding’s introduction to the game came from chasing his two older brothers around the backyard in street hockey. Growing up in Canton, MA he would go on to play for the Canton Youth program and later the South Shore Dynamos. When he reached high school age and had decisions to make about where to go and ultimately decided to stay home and play for his local High School team.
“Playing for Canton High was one of the best decisions I ever made,” admitted Harding.
“Some of my best memories come from playing in front of my town, friends and the Canton High student body. I had a great coach in Brian Shuman and enjoyed every second of being a Bulldog.”
He also played with the East Coast Wizards U14 and U16 programs under former NHLer Shawn McEachern and former AHL and D1 NCAA coach Bobby Jay.
“Both coaches did a lot for my development and taught me to play to my strengths.”
After two successful seasons with Canton HS and split season with East Coast Wizards, he knew it was time for the next level. He began looking at New England Prep Schools and eventually decided to attend Nobles & Greenough, a storied hockey program with elite academics and close to home.
“Nobles is a great place for a hockey player. Everyone there loves the sport. There’s a great culture that was built by previous players, and it is an honor to throw on that jersey and play. As a student I couldn’t be in a better place. The teachers are understanding and down to earth. They do a great job at developing us into better, smarter people.”
In his first year at Nobles he experienced both highs and lows. He played split season with the Cape Cod Whalers where, in the fall, he immediately put his name on the map among college recruiters as a big, strong power forward. However, he looked to have taken a step back at the Flood Marr Holiday Tournament, where our scouts thought he looked a step behind the pace. As the season went on and he found his stride and started playing a north-south power game, but got sidelined by a collarbone injury which held him out for half the season. Despite the injury however, he was still able to attract both USHL and NCAA scouts. He was drafted in the twelfth round by Bloomington in the USHL Entry Draft after getting passed up a year before in the Futures Draft.
“Not getting drafted in the Futures was a good thing for me because I used it as motivation in the off-season. I got a call before this year’s draft from one of Bloomington’s scouts saying they had an interest in drafting me, but it was surreal to see my name pop up on the screen.”
It wasn’t just the USHL reaching out but several college teams e-mailed and called, showing interest and setting up visits. “I first toured Providence and went to a game, which was a great experience. I then toured other Hockey East schools like BC, UNH, UConn, and UMass. They were all great places and the coaches were outstanding. They made it tough on me to make a decision.”
In the end, it was Providence, a school close to home, that got the nod. The 2014-2015 Friars had defeated the Jack Eichel led Terriers in the National Championship game. They were back in the national hunt again this past season, but fell short in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, falling to Minnesota Duluth in double overtime.
“I chose Providence because of how much I felt at home when I toured. It’s only 35 minutes from my house, which is nice. I loved the coaches and wanted to play for Coach Leaman. I also thought their style of play really fit my game. Lastly, I knew some of their committed players and was really impressed with their top-notch facilities.”
Harding is entering his NHL Draft Year; a daunting time for some, who start feeling the pressure to leave their high schools and prep schools and enter the junior hockey world in order to improve their draft stock. Not for this Providence commit, he’ll be returning to Nobles next season and playing split season with the Cape Cod Whalers U18.
So what can the Providence fans expect from Harding? Most recently, at the US Select 17 National Development Camp, he was a physical force, taking the body every chance he could and using his size and strength to his advantage. However, we asked him what he felt his strengths are and what he’ll be looking to improve before matriculating to Providence.
“My games based off of hard work and playing with an edge. I skate well and like to play physical. I move the puck and make smart plays. Something that I need to work on is creating more scoring chances in the offensive zone.”
He is tentatively slated to the 2018 Recruiting Class but could go in 2019 or even 2020 depending on how he develops over the next few seasons.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images