Life changed in a hurry for talented defenseman Garrett Haar when the Washington Capitals selected him 207th overall in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft. Haar was set to return to the Fargo Force for a second season, but the Caps liked him so much in rookie camp that plans were altered.
“When I went into the camp, I was supposed to be going back to Fargo but the General Manager [George McPhee] of the Caps had other plans,” Haar said. “They thought I was ready to play at the collegiate level and that’s where they wanted me to play the coming fall. It’s hard to say no to someone who has already done so much for you, so I weighed my options and did what I had to.”
Haar obliged to the request of the Capitals and chose to leave Fargo for Western Michigan, where he joined former Force captain Luke Witkowski. The news was a bit of a blow to the Force, who had just learned that head coach Jason Herter was leaving to be an assistant at Minnesota-Duluth.
After scoring 23 points in 51 games in his only USHL season, Haar, a Huntington Beach, California native, has scored once and has seven points in 29 games for the Broncos. Like many freshmen will attest to, the NCAA has been a bit of a learning curve for Haar. If it’s anything like last season, though, Haar will be very dangerous come playoff time.
Haar and Witkowski didn’t have a chance to play together prior to college, but the duo has played well to help lead Western Michigan to a 16-13-5 overall record. The Broncos, led by head coach Andy Murray, are 10-3-3 in conference play and sit in third behind Michigan and Ferris State in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Not only have Haar and Witkowski improved on the ice, they have built a relationship.
“It’s awesome play with Luke. He’s such a positive guy in the locker room, and is a great leader,” Haar said. “Luke is always making sure that I am doing what I am supposed to when it comes to school and hockey. During games or practices he’s always good for giving me little pointers that help me out a lot.”
While Haar has enjoyed some success at the college level and pleased the Washington Capitals organization, there were some trying times during his late departure from Fargo. Haar posted his decision to leave the Force and join Western Michigan on a social media site and the front office found out that way, rather than from Haar himself.
“I do think I could have handled the situation better for sure by communicating with others to let them know and keep everyone in the loop,” Haar said. “But when it comes to choosing WMU I have no regrets at all.”
Learning has certainly part of life for the defenseman. Haar was a healthy scratch a few times early in his Fargo Force career. He struggled at times in the USHL, but he found his game in the middle of his first season. At Western Michigan, he got off to a bit of a slow start, but has been a more regular contributor as the season has gone on.
Being able to learn on the job has made Haar a coveted National Hockey League prospect and a dangerous collegiate offensive-defenseman.
By: Tim How