At the start of Capitals’ development camp this week, Garrett Haar said he was working to improve his grades and would make the most of his junior year at Western Michigan despite being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester.
But by the end of the week Haar had opted leave the Broncos and continue his development in the Western Hockey League, likely with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Honestly I just want to be able to play, didn’t want to sit out half the year and I wasn’t in a really good spot at Western,” Haar said Saturday. “I was working toward my degree and trying to get back on track. I just think for my hockey career, to go to the WHL was what I thought was best for me.”
Haar, 19, announced his decision on Twitter Friday, the same day that Western Michigan Coach Andy Murray said the team decided to release the defenseman.
Have decided to leave Western Michigan and go play in the WHL. Medicine Hat tigers seems to be my destination but still not sure. #fresh
— Garrett Haar (@HaarDaddy4) July 12, 2013
“I met with Garrett more in the two years that he was here than I’ve met with any player I’ve ever coached in my career in wanting to help him,” Murray told the Kalamazoo Gazette in Michigan. “We feel for Garrett and his family, but ultimately our team comes first.”
General Manager George McPhee said that the reversal shouldn’t negatively impact the defenseman’s development.
“He was really well coached at Western but it didn’t work out academically so he’s going to go play junior,” McPhee said Saturday. “That won’t hurt, that will be good for his development.”
Haar said it’s not completely certain that he will land with Medicine Hat, which holds his WHL rights. But regardless of the team he does end up with, the California native believes he will be better served where he can play the most games possible.
“I would be playing 20, maybe less games than that if I were to stay at Western,” Haar said. “Playing in the Western League I’m going to go play 72-plus games. Just for the experience and getting some ice time that’s what I thought was best for me.”
Haar, who was a 2011 seventh-round pick, pleasantly surprised the Capitals staff when he first skated at development camp just weeks after being drafted but McPhee said the CHL could boost his progress.
Haar is “not as far along as we had hoped but I think this is going to be really good for him, to play a lot of games at the junior level,” McPhee said. “If you’re not a great student and things aren’t going to go well in college it’s ok to go play junior. If that’s your dream to develop as best you can to try and be a national leaguer. I don’t really think you can go wrong in either place. They both have their pluses and minuses and you have to decide on a case-by-case basis what’s best for a player.”