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Catching The Torch: Jordan Harris impresses on the Huskies’ first defensive pair

Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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

The NCAA season has finally started! We welcome back the fanfares and the cheerleaders that are the staple of collegiate hockey, but mostly the start of a new year of play for some inspiring prospects south of the border. And — good news — it was an interesting first weekend.

There were multiple impressive performances, but the best were to be found in the games of the Northestern Huskies, home of the inspiring young goalie Cayden Primeau, but also of Jordan Harris, who was taking his first steps in the league.

Harris played for Kimball Union Academy last season, a prep school for which he recorded 35 points in 37 games. It was then a big jump for the freshman, experiencing the NCAA calibre of play for the first time. The Sacred Heart Pioneers are not a powerhouse, but still represented a challenge for a Huskies team in its debut.

Harris just turned 18 years old on July 8, and is the youngest defender on the team. Still, his smooth skating ability made him an interesting option for the team, and the coaching staff wasted no time pairing him with junior Jeremy Davies: Northeastern’s most experienced blue-liner, utilized in all situations. A New Jersey Devils seventh-rounder, Davies has some good offensive capabilities and produced at close to a point per game for the team last season.

The pairing of Harris and Davies was solid for the Huskies. It gave Harris someone to rely on in his first shifts in the NCAA, and the combined mobility of the duo caused some damage to the pioneers. Numerous opposing plays were broken before reaching the blue line.

Defending off the rush was a clear strength for Harris at the high school level. He may not be the biggest defender, standing at 5’11”, but he has good crossover range, meaning that he is agile on his skates with solid four-way mobility. He has speed to catch up to opposing forwards in the neutral zone even if he is caught slightly out of position, but he generally demonstrates a good gap, which was the case against Sacred Heart. He is far from passive against rushing opponents. If he has the numbers on his side to step up to stop a play before it can start, he takes it.

At the high school level, after having identified an incoming attack on his partner’s side, he was often circling to skate forward to that side anyway, angling him to the boards and stripping him of possession himself. He used the same approach a few times in his first NCAA weekend.

Overall, in all facets of the game, Harris showed barely any hesitancy, and the jump to the higher level of play didn’t seem to faze him much at all.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, as his brief stint with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL in his draft year was punctuated by the same aggressiveness and willingness to take the risks his superior skating allows. It was a good sign for any scout watching him closely; confidence is a very important trait in a player.

This is not saying that Harris’s weekend was without faults. There were some slightly-too-enthusiastic pinches, some times he was caught too high, and, overall, the Pioneers weren’t the team to test his defensive-zone awareness too much, but for his first appearance, there were many more good signs than bad.

Harris also did this, which was a fun showcase of how he can shadow opposing players with his skating.

It’s clear he already has the trust of his coach on the defensive side of the puck, being placed on with Davies and playing on the first penalty kill unit. Last weekend didn’t do anything to change that, as Northeastern shut out Sacred Heart in their second game with a stellar performance by Primeau (more on that below).

Another positive takeaway is related to the offensive performance of Harris, maybe the biggest question mark when it comes to the prospect. Sure, Harris scored all of those points at the high school level, but he didn’t really showcase a dominant offensive mind while collecting his assists. He was not especially creative or a great shooter.

Surprisingly, the defenceman already has three points in two games with Northeastern: a goal and two assists. Some of those points were a bit flukey, especially his goal, with the puck taking a very favourable bounce to slide past the goalie, but there were many encouraging offensive sequences that didn’t lead to his name getting written on the scoresheet.

On Friday, he didn’t hesitate to carry the puck into the offensive zone when he had the chance, which is what led to his first assist. He also set up one of his teammates with a one-on-one chance on the goalie when Sacred Heart’s defence opened up, giving his forward free access to the slot after a turnover in the neutral zone. Harris then faked a shot and turned his release motion into a pass to a rushing teammate next to him, who unfortunately got hooked on what could have been a breakaway.

On Saturday, Harris started moving his feet at the point a lot more and had more good moments in the offensive zone. He took the puck to the net when a lane opened up, starting descending lower in the offensive zone near the half-wall to give better pass options on the weak side, and showed chemistry with Davies, who he found in the same spot a couple of times, the last one resulting in his second assist.

Highlights of Jordan Harris’ offensive game and off the rush defence this weekend. He wears #2 in black.

Harris showed patience to allow a scoring chance develop, but also displayed that he could distribute the puck quickly enough under pressure to not create turnovers. He also finished the game with four shots.

With Harris’s mobility, standing at the junction of the wall and the offensive blue line he can take a rimmed puck to the middle of the ice quite quickly. He doesn’t have the strongest release, but he can funnel pucks on net through traffic this way. With a few more bodies in front of the cage, it could result in more than a few tipped goals for Northeastern if they catch on to Harris’s ability.

The third-round pick of the Habs in 2018 will be a prospect to watch this season as he is offered an occasion to become a key member of Northeastern’s blue line. Stronger matchups await him in the next few weeks, and it will be an occasion to see if the promising elements the defenceman showed hold up.

Cayden Primeau, G, Northeastern

It wouldn’t be possible to talk about Northeastern without mentioning Primeau. The goalie finished the weekend with two wins, a shutout, .961 save percentage, and 1.00 goals-against average. He is at the start of a path to another remarkable season.

He was standing tall against shots coming from right in front of the net to snag attempts from the circles. His rebound control was also solid with some help from his defence corps that will itself enjoy the safety net he will provide all season long.

Highlights from Cayden Primeau’s work on Friday.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL weekly performance

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand 3 1 2 3
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 0 1 1
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 0 1 1
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 2 1 1 2
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 2 0 1 1
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 2 0 1 1
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 2 0 1 1
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 2 1 2 3

NCAA season to date

Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak LW Hockey East Wisconsin 2 0 1 1
Brett Stapley C WCHA Denver 2 1 2 3
Ryan Poehling C NCHC St. Cloud State 2 0 2 2
Nikolas Koberstein RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 2 0 0 0
Jordan Harris LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 1 2 3

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand 9 3 6 9
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 10 4 4 8
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 9 1 3 4
Alan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 8 3 5 8
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 7 3 5 8
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 11 5 6 11
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 6 0 3 3
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 7 4 7 11

Goalie season to date

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 2-0-0 1.00 0.961 1