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Catching the Torch: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard imposes himself on the QMJHL

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The Canadiens’ overage prospect in Junior is bullying his way to his best year yet.

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Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Montreal Canadiens prospects playing at the Junior (OHL, QMJHL, WHL, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Rafaël Harvey-Pinard's long run to the Memorial Cup last year — and most of all, his success at the short tournament — exposed his many qualities to scouts and led him to be selected by the Habs as a double-overager.

Harvey-Pinard can, at times, finish from a distance or thread the puck through multiple bodies to connect with teammates. Those abilities will help him retain some of his offence at the pro-level. That being said, the seventh rounder doesn't regularly make high-skill plays.

But what you can count on him to do every night is out-work opponents. It’s what he showed last year, why he was a prized overager at the start of this season in the QMJHL, and why the Chicoutimi Saguenéens chose him to lead their team.

They appointed him captain because despite his smaller stature, and not being the fastest or the quickest, he remains the motor of any line. He creates opportunities through relentless work, and complements just about anyone on the team.

Watch this sequence below from the Sags’ game against the Shawinigan Cataractes.

Rafaël Harvey-Pinard wears #11 for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens (blue and white).

About half a dozen times, Harvey-Pinard wins a race to the puck or spins inside traffic to get his stick on it, preventing the opposition from breaking out. His pressure helps install his team’s cycle in the offensive zone and then creates a couple of net-front scoring chances.

It’s not that he’s quicker than others to get the first touch on the puck, though he is at times. Generally, he wins the contest by starting his course before opponents — as he’s more engaged in the game and actively looking for opportunities to disrupt and get possession.

He’s also more experienced. At the end of the clip above, he knows the route the opposing team will use to breakout. It’s clearly a pass to a high winger cutting to the near wall, but he doesn’t immediately take away the passing lane. He strides to remain close to this high opposing winger, and puts his stick down as the puck flies up to cut the feed.

Here are three other clips of him winning the puck from the opposition.

They showcase his ability to anticipate puck movements, move ahead of them to put himself in a position for a steal, and force himself in front of opponents. He uses his body to ensure he wins that little black disc, even when he doesn’t get to it early.

The defenceman he rams in the last video might be younger than him at 18-years-old, but he also has six inches of height on the Habs prospect. The lower centre of gravity, greater will, and better balance of the winger wins out in the end.

The Sags are currently a team in transformation. They acquired a bunch of high-profile names at or before the trade deadline; players like Dawson Mercer, Raphaël Lavoie, and Félix Bibeau, three of the best scorers and most impactful players in the QMJHL.

Dominant firepower has given the team a lot victories in the past week. They haven’t lost in January yet, and have scored six or more goals in their past five games. Other formations simply can’t match their talent.

While adding to the scoring with 13 points in eight games so far this month, Harvey-Pinard’s relentless pressure away from the puck has been the glue for a new Sags top line, helping the trio produce consistently, and develop chemistry.

If he continues playing this way, he could actually improve on his total of 85 points in 66 games last year. He started the season slower than expected, but is heating up in the second half while surrounded by talent, and fueled by the perspective of a championship in his final year of Junior hockey.

Here are the highlights from Harvey-Pinard’s three-point game on Wednesday night.

Jacob LeGuerrier, LD, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

LeGuerrier isn’t having the breakout season we could have hoped for, but he is still showing the same steady increase in production season to season. He is now up to 21 points in about double the contests this year.

On Saturday, he scored by using his main weapon on a shot from the right faceoff circle. Due to his release from that position, the Greyhounds even utilized him there on their powerplay for a little while.

While junior numbers remain important in projecting the future impact of a defenceman in the NHL, LeGuerrier wasn’t drafted for his offence. His chance at a pro-career will come from continued development in the defensive and puck-moving side of his game, something that has fluctuated in effectiveness in recent games. The Greyhounds will need him to act as a shutdown presence in their top-four as they try to make the playoffs.

CHL Weekly performances

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 2 0 1 1
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 1 2 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 0 2 2
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 0 1 1
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 2 0 0 0
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 3 1 1 2
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips Injured
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4 0 1 1

CHL Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard 2019 LW QMJHL Chicoutimi 55 31 40 71
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 43 19 31 50
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 61 23 58 81
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 62 23 44 67
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 60 6 25 31
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 60 15 59 74
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 37 5 20 25
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 36 0 6 6

NCAA/USHL Weekly performances

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 2 0 3 3
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern Injured
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 2 1 1 2

NCAA Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 28 2 5 7
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 36 19 17 36
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 35 5 25 30
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 21 3 7 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 33 3 18 21
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 45 17 25 42