Left-winger Brett Harkins entered the 2001-02 season hoping to return to the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. A few years earlier he toiled briefly with the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers before being relegated to the minors.
Born in North Ridgeville, Ohio Harkins attended St. Andrews High School north of Toronto before joining the Junior C Brockville Braves. After registering 69 points in 38 games for Detroit Compuware of the NAJHL in 1988-89, the young forward was claimed 133rd overall by the New York Islanders at the Entry Draft. He then spent four years at Bowling Green University before playing the 1993-94 season with Adirondack of the AHL.
Unable to gain an opportunity on Long Island, Harkins signed with the Boston Bruins prior to the Lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. While competing for the Providence Bruins, he led the AHL with 69 assists in 80 games and was recalled to Boston for one game. After coming to terms with the Florida Panthers, Harkins played eight NHL games in 1995-96. He also led the AHL in assists for the second straight year but was not able to stick with the Panthers.
Harkins returned to Boston and played 44 games in 1996-97 before he was returned to the minors. During the next four years he was a top playmaker in the IHL. After topping the "I" with 64 assists as a member of the Houston Aeros, the hard working winger signed with the upstart Blue Jackets as they prepared for their sophomore NHL campaign.