It's no secret that the Hurricanes are well-versed in drafting players from the college rankings and they seem to always look there when it comes to selecting a defensemen. Both Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain came from the NCAA and some of their more promising prospects such as Mark Alt and Brian Dumoulin (before he was traded) were playing college hockey when they were drafted. Another player to add to that list is Harvard University's star defenseman Danny Biega, who might be the team's best prospect currently playing college hockey.
Biega was taken in the third round of the 2010 draft and at the time, he was billed as a slightly under-sized defenseman with a good amount of two-way upside. He didn't have the most impressive track record then but that has changed completely in the last two years. Biega's sophomore and junior seasons at Harvard have been very impressive and it reached a new high last year. He was a point per game player, led all Harvard defensemen in points and earned a number of credentials around the nation. Biega's 35 points in 34 games was the highest total from a Harvard defensemen since 1993-94 and ranked second among defensemen in the league in points-per-game. His offensive output was very impressive but his play in his own end may have been even more impressive, as Biega was on ice for only 9 goals against during ECAC play.
Now, I don't know how much luck played a role in that since Harvard's two goalies were on polar opposites of the save percentage spectrum, but to be on ice for only 9 goals against in 20+ games is impressive nonetheless. Biega is a strong, smart player but he isn't the biggest or most physically active, so I'm not sure how his defensive play will translate to the NHL even though he has been nothing but impressive during his last two years at Harvard. His skating, puck-moving skills and deceptive shot remain his most effective skills, so it's more likely that he becomes an offensive-defensemen in the NHL, although he could amount to much more after his play in both ends last season.
Biega was a first team ECAC All-American and was the ECAC Defensive Defenseman of the year. He was also a runner-up for the ECAC player of the year and was on the ballot for the Hobey Baker Award for the best college player, neither of which are small feats and could mean big things for him in the future. It will be interesting to see how Biega builds on this season because he has already shattered the expectations of many and he still has some room to grow. He will get a chance to bring home some more hardware next season when he returns to Harvard as team captain and looks to improve on an outstanding junior year.
The Hurricanes prospect pipleline suffered a big blow when they traded Brian Dumoulin this summer but the Canes are well-stocked in defenseman with Biega being one of the most promising names in the bunch. His performance last season was almost as impressive as Dumoulin's and it looks like he may have a future ahead of him in the NHL, but how good he will be is another question. He has the offensive tools to be a great powerplay quarterback but his defensive game might be a lot better than the scouts had originally thought. If Biega is a solid top-four defenseman at the NHL level, then it's possible that he could off-set the loss of Dumoulin. We will have to see how next season goes before making that claim, though. That and Carolina needs to sign him to a contract when his college season ends.
Either way, Biega is one of the more underrated players in the Canes system and could find himself in the NHL soon if everything goes right.