It’s a jarring statement to read, at first.
“We just thought the best decision was to come back and focus on finishing my degree here at Northeastern, and helping this team have success and try to accomplish some special things.”
These are words that you don’t see very often in the college hockey world. From Jack Eichel to Devin Shore, it’s not often that the best of the best in the NCAA finish out their eligibility.
For Kevin Roy, though, the decision isn’t so surprising.
“I would have had the opportunity to play junior hockey in Quebec like most do,” said Roy, while representing Northeastern along with head coach Jim Madigan at Hockey East Media Day last month. “At an early age I knew that college, education, was really important for a career… I wanted to get the highest degree of education I could while doing the thing I love the most and that is playing hockey, so I’m lucky enough to be where I am now.”
Why put off the pros for another year though? Countless players have completed their degrees during the offseason.
“It means a lot [finishing this year], because you just get it over with and you can just now focus on hockey after (graduating) without worrying about having to come back in summers and finish,” said Roy, “ so I think it’s real important, you always have that to fall back on.”
“If I was going to leave and not get my degree I just don’t think it would have been the right decision for me.”
Since almost his first month on campus, fans and media alike had assumed that the Huskies would have Roy for two seasons, maybe three. Not many would have thought that come 2015, Roy would still be here, in the classroom and on the ice as team captain.
It was not unexpected for Jim Madigan, though.
“It didn’t take me by surprise,” said the fifth-year head coach, “[He’s] a real mature young man and… with the advice of his mom and dad and his advisers sat down and said ‘you know what, I want to graduate from Northeastern, I want to get my degree.’”
For Roy and his family, the personal satisfaction of walking across the TD Garden stage in May cannot be rivaled – especially in a historic building where the forward has left his mark, producing some unforgettable Beanpot moments. The fans who have watched him on St. Botolph Street for the past three seasons, though, have seen some pretty satisfying feats as well. Everyone has their own personal favorite Kevin Roy memory. How could you not?
Whether it be the birth of “Monday Night Roy” with a hat-trick against Boston University in the first round of the 2013 Beanpot, his game-winner against third-ranked Minnesota that helped turn the Huskies 2014-2015 campaign around, or the blistering 33 points he posted after the middle of December last season, it’s hard to argue that Roy isn’t one of the most electric players in Northeastern hockey history. He’s got the accolades to back it up.
Roy was a 2015 All-American and Hockey East First-Team All-Star. He’s a two-time Hobey Baker Award Candidate and a frontrunner for the 2016 edition. He’s garnered four Player of the Week honors and two Player of the Month awards. He’s posted seven goals and four assists in six career Beanpot games and is the first Husky since Jordon Shields in 1994 to log back-to-back 40 point seasons. He has 124 points in his collegiate career, enough to make him the national leader among returning players, putting him just 29 points from Northeastern’s top 10 in all-time scoring. It’s a staggering resume, yet Roy remains humble.
“I try not to [think about it], because it’s easy to look at points or goals,” said Roy, “but at the end of the day that’s not really what helps the team. It does, but not only that.”
“I think you’ve got to focus on the little things, like being consistent, working hard every day and trying to lead this team to success, and that will bring the success needed but I try not to think of personal stuff like that because that’s not really what matters to me right now.”
Madigan, though, doesn’t hesitate in naming him among the best, if not the best in program history.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with many of those guys in the top 10 (in NU scoring history),” said Madigan, “or see a lot of them play, or just know of them and know of their accomplishments. He might be the most skilled guy in that group.”
“Hockey in different eras, the game changes it and evolves, and during the timeline when I played in the 80’s it was much more offensive, and now there’s so much attention to defensive play and it’s hard to create that offense. He’s going to get in the top ten but I don’t know in different eras if he might not be number one in a more offensive styled game.”
“That’s not disrespect to the other guys because they were all great players and some of them were teammates of mine. He’s just that dynamic and exceptionally offensive player.”
Of course, Madigan is ecstatic to have him back for another season.
“We’ve got one of the top players, if not the top player in the league coming back. Offensively he’s gifted, he’s dynamic and he’s going to get his goals, he’s going to get his points, but what he also does is takes the burden off other guys, he wants to shoulder that responsibility, he wants to assume the leadership role.”
“It’s like a number one pitcher in baseball,” continued Madigan. “He’s the ace of our team, he’s the ace of our offense and in his own quiet way takes on that responsibility and makes it easier for our other players, our other skilled players, they can just play their game because he’ll assume the responsibility, plus the other teams will pay special attention to him freeing up some other guys.”
That is not to say he has been without criticism. Often chastised by fans and the media for what they deemed to be a less than stellar effort defensively over his first two seasons, Roy acknowledges that he heard the critics. He answered in a big way in 2014-2015, becoming one of the Huskies’ best players on both sides of the ice down the stretch. A lot of it, he simply equates to growing up and maturing as a player.
“I think (I have) a lot more pro-approach to the game, to practice every day, to the weight room,” said Roy. “I just learned how to be consistent in all three zones.”
“I’ve been criticized before about defensive play, but now I know, my coaches know, that there’s no issue with me being on the ice with a minute left up 3-2.”
“He’s grown as a player in terms of his play away from the puck and his commitment to playing away from the puck,” added Madigan. “Playing away from the puck is in all three zones, not just in the defensive zone, so he understands for him to get to the next level, you have to have one thing that’s going to get you to the NHL level, whether it be offensive play, whether it be defensive play, and for Kevin it’s offensively.”
“But you still have to be well-rounded and he’s been smart enough to work on those parts of his game and he’s committed himself the second half of last year to being a real good player in practice, to make games that much easier for him.”
Taking notice of his hard work and leadership mentality, Madigan named Roy the 80th captain in Northeastern history at the annual end-of-year banquet in April. After two years of growth on and off the ice, this is now, more than ever, Roy’s team.
“In two weeks I’ve been here with the team you’re learning a lot from the experience of being captain,” said Roy at Hockey East Media Day. “You try to develop some things you wouldn’t really develop if you weren’t.”
“For sure it’s made me more focused and even more excited for this year.”
The important thing, Roy says, is consistency.
“When you play 34 games in college you can’t take one game off. With 34 games you can’t take a night off and I think that’s something we’ve got to approach is that day in and day out at practice or what – so we’ve got to approach it consistently every practice, be the best we can be, be focused.”
When it’s all said and done this season, the ultimate destination for Roy is one that has been years in the making, after growing up in the hockey-crazed small town of Lac-Beauport, Quebec: the NHL.
The Anaheim Ducks 97th overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, Roy has attended the team’s developmental camp the past two summers, notably starring in his second viral video (the first being the 2006 Youtube hit “wicked good Canadian”) when he scored a beautiful goal showcasing handles that Northeastern fans have been more than accustomed to over the recent years.
“Any time I go there you learn so much from the coaches there, it’s special to have that kind of experience,” said Roy. “They always have little pointers and stuff that make me better, so without even knowing it I definitely learned some stuff that I’m bringing this year.”
What he wants to work on before making the jump is simple: “Everything. Bigger, faster, stronger, you always have something to work on, you always can get better, whoever you are and whatever level you play it doesn’t matter so I just think I’ve got to be more consistent every weekend, every night and that’s my main goal right now.”
At the moment, though, Roy is focused on the here and now – including playing in front of his brother, starting netminder Derick.
“It’s been so fun. Not a lot of players have the opportunity to play with their brothers like we do, so I have a lot of respect [for him] because he works hard every day and he’s worked his way up, and now he’s going to try and prove what he can do.”
Playing and graduating with his brother will be unforgettable. The degree is crucial. But on the ice, according to his head coach, Roy has one goal in mind this year.
“From a hockey perspective, Kevin wanted to lead Northeastern to a championship. We have not had a championship. We’ve been close, and we’ve been as close as anything in the Beanpot the last three years in the championship game… He’s a competitive guy and he wants to lead this team to those areas of success.”
If he has the kind of year fans are hoping for, when Roy takes the stage at the TD Garden in May, the Northeastern colors may finally be flying from the hallowed rafters above him.
Photo Courtesy of Northeastern Athletics