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Could defensive prospect Adam Fox give the Hurricanes the edge in the Calgary trade?

Adam Fox, a defenseman at Harvard, was traded in June 2018 to the Carolina Hurricanes and attended the team’s prospect development camp at PNC Arena. Photo courtesy of Harvard athletics.
Adam Fox, a defenseman at Harvard, was traded in June 2018 to the Carolina Hurricanes and attended the team’s prospect development camp at PNC Arena. Photo courtesy of Harvard athletics.

For those still arguing over who won the big Carolina-Calgary hockey trade last week, here's something to keep in mind:

Adam Fox might cast the deciding vote.

The Hurricanes sent forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin to the Flames and got back forward Micheal Ferland and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Their statistics, production and team success will inevitably be compared this NHL season and beyond.

But Fox is the wild card, the X-factor in the deal.

There are some in Calgary who say the Flames added the 20-year-old defenseman to the trade because they had nothing to lose, that the feeling was the Flames would never sign him. That the former third-round draft pick planned to play out his college eligibility at Harvard and become an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team.

Fox, attending the Canes' prospect development camp this week, strongly disagrees with that assumption.

"I've never said anything about my plans," Fox said. "Definitely next year I'm going back to school and will take it day by day.

"For me, it's not that I've thought all the way down the road and had this whole thing planned out, of what I want to do."

Canes general manager Don Waddell said Thursday he's confident Fox will sign an entry-level contract with Carolina next year, saying discussions have been held with Fox and his adviser.

"I'd say it's 99.9 percent we will get him signed," Waddell said. "I don't see it being as issue at all."

A lot of people like Fox's game. He has good offensive instincts as a defenseman and is a right-handed shooter. He has played against strong competition, both in the U.S. National Team Development Program and at Harvard.

Fox has twice been a member of Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship, winning a gold medal in 2017 and then a bronze in the World Juniors this year.

"His hockey sense is off the charts," Waddell said. "He's one of the premier defensemen not in the National Hockey League."

Some say his size -- 5-11 and 181 pounds -- could be a problem, but for Fox the pros seem to outweigh the cons. The Flames thought so, making him a third-round pick, 66th overall, in 2016.

Fox has played two seasons at Harvard and been named a first-team All-America in both. The Flames were ready to sign him to his entry-level contract this year and get his pro career started, but in late March Fox said he would be going back to Harvard for his junior season in 2018-19.

Three months later, he was traded.

"For me, there are parts of the game I want to improve on before making that jump (to pro hockey)," Fox said. "Obviously being here this week with the (Canes) coaching staff and management, they can say what I need to improve on (and) going back to school definitely is a big opportunity for me to work on things to get better to make that jump.

"For me, I want to get bigger, faster, stronger. Obviously for me I think the game pretty well. But just the physical attributes and stuff I want to work on. The jump to the next level is against older guys who are big and strong, so that's something I want to work on."

A psychology major at Harvard, Fox was jokingly asked if, by chance, he was mentally teasing -- or testing -- the media when it comes to answering the will-he-or-won't-he questions that followed him from Calgary to Carolina.

But he laughed that off. "I wouldn't say I'm a master in psychology," he said, smiling. "I just major in psychology."

Fox has been able to meet a future teammate while in Raleigh. Forward Jack Drury, the Canes' second-round pick at last week's draft, will be a freshman at Harvard this year and the two have been roommates at the prospect camp. Fox also was able to say a personal thank-you to Canes forward Justin Williams, who spoke Wednesday to the prospects.

Fox said Williams texted him after the trade.

"He said he's excited to have me," Fox said. "Obviously that was nice and I appreciate that." It was pretty hectic with all the texts and calls I was getting and that one popped up. It was pretty exciting. I know my brother was pretty fired up about that."

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