By: Matt Dresens
With several players missing time for various reasons this semester, Head Coach David Quinn has made numerous changes, tweaks and switches to his lineup card. The most obvious is plugging freshman defenseman David Farrance in at forward on the third line.
Since Patrick Harper has been out sick for the majority of the semester and Jordan Greenway’s temporary departure for the Olympics, the move has been a regular occurrence since BU’s 4-3 win at Merrimack on January 19. Since that day, Farrance has started in five games, four of which have been at left wing.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Farrance said. “It’s still hockey. It’s still the same game, you just have the puck on your stick a little bit less, and you gotta forecheck, and maybe hit a little bit more than on defense. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but it’s still hockey.”
“We’re deep on the back end,” Quinn added. “With the situation we are in with Greenway and Harper, I just want to dress our 18 best players and he’s one of them. He’s a hockey player, and he’s one of the guys who can go up front and do well. He’s creating offense, working hard and being physical.”
Friday night, everything came full circle for Farrance back at Merrimack. He led a rush up ice along the far side wall and used his body to shield the puck like a veteran forward. From just below the dot, Farrance threaded a pass between two defenders and found the tape of Gabe Chabot at the edge of the crease for a redirection goal.
“It was a heck of a play he made, and to me that’s why he’s up front,” Quinn said.
In total, Farrance has two points, both assists, in his four games up front, but they have come in his last two games.
“I don’t mind it, I guess I prefer defense a little bit more,” Farrance said. “That’s what I’m more comfortable with and I feel more effective at defense, but I certainly don’t mind playing forward.”
Last summer, he was drafted 92nd overall by Nashville in the NHL entry draft as a defenseman. As for the Predators, Farrance mentioned they were not too concerned with the move.
“They don’t have too big of a problem with it. They think that it will help develop offensive skills and seeing the ice at a different viewpoint. I think they know I’ll be back on defense eventually,” Farrance said.
While the move doesn’t seem to be permanent, Farrance would prefer to move back to the blue line. For now though, he seems to be staying in place at least until Greenway returns from the Olympics.
As Quinn mentioned, there is an abundance of talent on the blue line. Skating Farrance as a forward has opened the door for Brian Diffley, who only dressed in 12 games last season. Already, Diffley has passed that number this year, appearing in 14. He has also notched two goals in his last five games, including a two-on-one strike at UConn last Friday.
“Diff’s problem is that he doesn’t think he’s as good as I think he is,” Quinn said. “He fights self confidence. When he plays with confidence, he’s a very good player at this level. He’s playing with more confidence and his decision making is better. He’s playing with conviction, and when he does that he’s a really good player.”
For Quinn, shifting defenseman to forward is not a new idea. In 2015, Ahti Oksanen made the switch with resounding success. The former Finnish defenseman was slotted in on the top line with Danny O’Regan and Jack Eichel. Oksanan finished the year with 25 goals, just one behind the Hobey Baker winner, Eichel. Just last season, stay at home defenseman Doyle Somerby even got a look on left wing.
Prior to Quinn taking over the head coaching position, Jack Parker slid the ever-offensive David Warsofsky in at forward for a handful of games. In addition, switches have gone the other way. Current Olympian Matt Gilroy walked on to BU as a forward in 2006. In 2009, he won the Hobey Baker as a defenseman.
There is certainly a long line of success stories, and Farrance seems to be on the right path. Whether he stays up front or not, he has certainly been serviceable as a forward thus far.