The Montreal Canadiens could be seeing some shuffling in their goaltending hierarchy next season. As Antti Niemi probably won’t be returning, Carey Price will be looking for a new backup. Which means, it’s a now-or-never decision for Marc Bergevin and his front-office team regarding Charlie Lindgren.
That would then leave Michael McNiven to officially be anointed as starter for the Laval Rocket, and with the minor-league contracts of Etienne Marcoux and Connor LaCouvee expiring, the Canadiens will certainly be in the market for an NHL-contracted backup for Laval. Thankfully, they may already have their sights on who that will be.
Samuel Harvey has been on the Canadiens’ radar for a while. He was invited to development camp in July after going undrafted in his final year of eligibility, participated in the Rookie Showcase in September, and finally was one of two Junior-aged players to receive an invite to the main Canadiens’ camp. He was eventually cut and returned to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but he spoke of his experience quite highly, especially his interaction with Price, whom he holds in the highest regard.
“All goaltenders should inspire themselves from Carey Price,” said Harvey in an interview with TVA Sports. “I think he’s the best in the NHL. He’s really solid technically. Not everyone can be like him, I probably won’t emulate him. But everyone should use him as a measuring stick.”
Harvey currently leads the QMJHL in goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (0.924), and is second in both wins (33) and shutouts (4). To say he’s having an excellent over-age season would be an understatement. But the success is not an anomaly. He showed similar domination last season, winning the Jacques Plante trophy for best GAA and was a First-Team All-Star.
Not only has he had two consecutive seasons of dominance, supported by a powerful Huskies team, but also a very successful Junior career thus far. His 127 wins put him fourth overall in QMJHL history, but with only six games remaining in the season, he will not reach Zachary Fucale’s 134.
The Canadiens have been very successful signing free-agent goaltenders: Lindgren, McNiven, and Mike Condon are all such examples. Drafting, on the other hand, has not been as productive in the past. Fucale certainly serves as an excellent cautionary tale, as do Jason Missiaen and Petteri Simila before him. The Canadiens have something interesting in Cayden Primeau whom they drafted a couple of years ago, but he’s probably not turning pro for another season or two.
So, Harvey may just fit the bill as a goaltender who’s brimming with potential, and who could also provide the Canadiens with a depth option for the upcoming Seattle expansion draft. Should McNiven move up to the NHL when Primeau signs his pro contract and starts in Laval, Harvey could be the one constant for the Rocket during this whole period of uncertainty.
When Joél Bouchard was at the helm of the Canadian Junior Team in 2017, he invited Harvey because he saw potential in the undrafted goaltender. Head coach Dominique Ducharme liked what he saw from the goaltender, but ultimately chose to go with Carter Hart and Colton Point. From that experience, the connection with Bouchard, Ducharme, and, by extension, the Canadiens organization was formed. This season Harvey is being considered for top-goaltender honours in all of Junior. A strong run at the Memorial Cup could solidify that standing.
As of March 1, NHL teams are allowed to start signing contracts for next season. The Canadiens would do well to sign Harvey sooner rather than later if they see his addition to the organization in a positive light, before another team with a weaker goaltending depth decides to swoop in and sign him to an entry-level contract.