One could look at the path Montreal-born defenceman Marc Biega has taken as one that is well-worn and comfortable. He demonstrated last week that he also isn't afraid to branch out.
The six-foot left handed blueliner has three older brothers who've used hockey to attend the prep hockey program at Salisbury in Connecticut right up to the ivylined walls of Harvard.
At 18, Marc continued that trail to Salisbury, but this time he's taken a turn west and committed to the Coquitlam Express for 2012-13.
A prized recruit who was taken by the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in an expansion draft earlier this month, Biega chose Coquitlam and the B.C. Hockey League for the next step in his hockey development.
"I spent a couple of days out there (last week) and by talking to Jon just thought it was a great fit for me," Biega told The NOW in a telephone interview from Montreal. "From the people I talked to it seems to be a top team and I'm excited to be going there."
Express head coach and general manager Jon Calvano is over the moon that he did.
"I've been on him since January," noted Calvano of Biega. "That's when I took a quick trip east and saw him play- It couldn't have been a better scouting opportunity because I saw him on the [penalty kill], the powerplay and contribute at both ends of the ice."
In his first visit west last week, Biega was courted by a handful of BCHL clubs. The difference proved to be the pitch tossed by Calvano on the role he'd take with a club that is aiming to challenge for the Coastal Conference title.
"Definitely, [Calvano] is a great recruiter and I saw it firsthand," said Biega. "I was just glad to get a chance to see my options up close and make my choice after talking and meeting the people involved."
The Salisbury team captain, Biega ended his final year at the prep school with six goals and 30 assists in 28 U.S. high school games.
Calvano said that the Express also had to compete with a few U.S. Hockey League rivals to lock up Biega, but the BCHL's reputation, along with Coquitlam's position when it comes to securing good scholarships for its players, paid off.
"He brings leadership skills, being captain of the top prep team in Connecticut," said the Express coach. "He's the youngest brother of four who've all went to Harvard, and he has some offensive capabilities."
Stepping up into the attack is a big part of Biega's game, and something the defender takes pride in.
"Hopefully I'll be able to step right in and contribute offensively.
As a defenceman I like being the fourth man up in the play, generating offence."
As the youngest of four boys - six years younger than his eldest brother - Biega gained a lot of knowledge from watching his siblings rise through the hockey ranks. All chose college hockey over major junior. And while he's trailblazing with his move west, the teen says his aim is to get an NCAA scholarship.
"That's definitely one of my major goals. Being at Salisbury I learned so much, for two years I focused on not only hockey but also the academic side. I really enjoyed my time there and although disappointed that we lost in the (New England) semifinals, I have nothing but great memories."
Along with last month's announced commitment of Ontario native Callum Hofford, another 18-year-old two-way blueliner, the club has gone a considerable distance when it comes to restocking the defence. Replacing graduated players Clinton Atkinson, Rajan Sidhu and Nicholas Wong required some intensive planning, Calvano said, but he believes the organization has hit a couple of home runs.
"Defencemen are so hard to come by. You work hard to get a good one, you get them recruited and playing, and at the end of the year they go off to college, so it's a cycle," said Calvano.
The hockey club, which will have a number of key veterans returning - including Coastal Conference rookie of the year Alexander Kerfoot - is expected to have some healthy competition for positions in camp come late August.
The club will have a solid offensive nucleus returning, led by Kerfoot, Brady Shaw and John Siemer, as well as veteran netminders Khalid Devji and Cole Huggins eligible to return.
Kerfoot was ranked 165th overall by the Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters leading up to this week's NHL Entry Draft.
Calvano feels the West Vancouver rookie centre - who tallied 25 goals and 44 assists in 51 regular season games - will be a big coup for the club that selects him.
"You never know what those [NHL general managers] are thinking, but I'd be stunned if Alex isn't drafted- Someone's going to get a very talented and dedicated young player," said Calvano.
The Express, meanwhile, continue to ramp up its off-ice programs as well. Along with taking season ticket orders and seeking billet families for its players, the club is offering summer hockey camp in midAugust, as well as its annual elite hockey academy.
For more information on these or other programs, visit www.coquitlamexpress.ca or call 604-936-4625.