Shane Harper is homeward bound. No, he’s not headed to San Francisco (that was the sequel anyway), but close. The Valencia, California native has agreed to a professional tryout with the Los Angeles Kings, based less than forty miles from his home town. Kings beat writer Jon Rosen reported the deal earlier this afternoon.
While Harper is not exactly a household name, the 28-year-old is officially an NHL veteran after debuting with the Florida Panthers last season. A high-flying scorer with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips back in 2009-10, Harper signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Philadelphia Flyers to kick off his pro career, but was never given a shot at the highest level in Philly, skating instead with their former affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, for parts of four seasons. Harper then had to spend two seasons on an AHL contract with the Chicago Wolves before getting another NHL deal, this time with the New York Islanders, after a career best 50-point season. While the Islanders also denied Harper his debut, he caught the eye of the Panthers, who signed him to a one-year deal last summer and called him up for 14 games in 2016-17. Harper potted two goals and added an assist in his brief stint, but also showed some grit and two-way ability. The Panthers traded Harper to the New Jersey Devils on trade deadline day, who did not use him down the stretch and did not show interest in re-signing him. Still, it was a major building block season for an older “prospect” making his NHL debut after logging 398 games and 183 points in the AHL to get there.
Harper joins a loaded list of Kings’ PTO roster candidates and has his work cut out for him facing Andrei Loktionov, a younger and arguably more talented player who has the added benefit of being a former King, and grizzly veterans Brooks Laich and Brandon Prust. However, Harper’s local ties and likely willingness to also play with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, which is only another thirty-odd miles from Valencia, could give him an edge on winning a roster spot. Unlike Loktionov and Prust, Harper has also stuck with the North American game and is comfortable with the role of being an AHL depth player. Harper also just got his first taste of NHL action and is likely eager to return, perhaps bringing more of an edge and work ethic than experienced veterans. For now, Harper is at least an interesting story line to follow this fall as a local boy trying to make his hometown team. However, with some luck, Harper could surely be more than that.