The Panthers’ didn’t make much noise in the free-agent market in 2015 when it came to adding to the NHL roster, but they made some solid additions to improve their new AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. Shane Harper was one of those additions, and although he’s only on a one-year deal, it shows the commitment of the Panthers’ ownership to putting together a well-rounded depth chart of players. We caught up with Harper and asked him some questions about his interests and career thus far.
Shane Harper was one of six free-agents the Panthers signed to a contract when the market opened on July 1st, 2015, and it’s fairly easy to see why. The 26-year old right winger is coming off a career-high 32-goal campaign with the Chicago Wolves in the 2014-15 season, a mark which was good for 3rd in the AHL. Harper, a native of Valencia, California, plays a solid two-way game and does so in a top-6 role.
While he has a knack for finding the back of the net, his playmaking ability is fairly underrated. He leads the Panthers’ AHL affiliate with 19 assists and is second on the team with 24 points in just 33 games. He also had an impressive month of December tallying 12 points in 11 games. Harper attended the Panthers’ training camp prior to this season and stuck with the team for almost the entire preseason before being one of the final roster cuts. While he’s yet to play a game in the NHL, his skill-set is certainly suited for the caliber of play, and he looked impressive in the pre-season games he played in. He’s performed well at every level so far, so I’d definitely be interested to see him in the NHL soon.
I’ve personally watched a good amount of Pirates games this season, and from what I’ve seen, he has a really solid game and plays really well in the offensive zone. If I had to compare him to a player on the Panthers’ roster right now, I’d say he’s very reminiscent of Jussi Jokinen or Reilly Smith considering he plays both ends of the rink well, makes the players around him better, can play in any situation, and overall sees the ice well.
Now that we’ve gotten the background stuff out of the way, here’s our brief interview with Shane Harper:
At what age did you know you could play pro hockey and that you had the skills to do so?
I think I first knew I could play professional hockey when I was about 17 or 18. I came into the WHL at 16 and that was such a big step for a young kid playing minor hockey. After a couple years there, I started to understand more how it would be professionally.
What would you say is your favorite moment of your career thus far?
My favorite moment would have to be my OT winner at the Phillies’ baseball stadium in the AHL outdoor game against the Hershey Bears. I believe there were 43,000 people there and I know it was an AHL record at the time.
What would be your favorite moment (goal, game, save, etc.) from a game that you’ve watched?
My favorite moment that I’ve watched or seen was probably when I was really young. I remember my parents took me to the very last game that the LA Kings ever played at the Great Western Forum. They were my favorite team as a child…we used to watch games at The Forum when Gretzky was there and it was just something I remembered getting to be at the very last one before the staples center opened.
Who is your favorite hockey player (past or present)?
My favorite player would have to be Wayne Gretzky. We used to watch him in LA and I actually played with his son and daughter, Ty and Paulina, in my very first ice hockey season at age 6.
Who would you say is the funniest player on the Portland Pirates?
The funniest teammate on the Pirates would have to be Sena Acolatse. It’s pretty special and unique that you get to play with one of your really good friends from back home.
You score goals often, so what’s your favorite goal celebration?
I usually go to the one knee with a fist pump mixed in, haha.
So you mentioned that you scored the OT game-winning goal in a 2012 outdoor game…how would you describe that moment and what is it like to play in an outdoor game?
Oh whoops, I guess I already talked about this a little, haha. We were the Adirondack Phantoms, which was Philadelphia’s farm team at the time. It was incredible, though. I will never forget it, it was such a different feeling playing in the middle of a baseball field. There were no fans right behind the glass, and it almost felt like we were alone even though there were 43,000 people. There was a little bit of a delayed sound almost from the fans. It was a pretty awesome way to end the game for me and my team in front of the home Philadelphia crowd.
Is there anyone that you model your game after?
I can’t really say there’s 1 player I model my game after. I’ve always watched highlights or players I liked and tried to take things from their game whether it was a VHS tape my dad got me when I was young or now it’s so easy to go on YouTube.
Do you have any pre-game rituals, and are you superstitious about things before / after games?
I’m pretty particular with my sticks…guys are always giving me grief that I’m always working on them, haha.
Do you follow any other sports aside from hockey?
I love to watch and play golf…I’m getting a little more into football now. But mostly just hockey and golf are my favorite sports.
That’s all for now! You can find Shane Harper on Twitter at @Cali_Sharp and on the ice for the Portland Pirates as #11.