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Catching The Torch: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard and Samuel Houde working well together in Chicoutimi

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We also explore the relationship between Cam Hillis and Pavel Gogolev in Guelph.

Chicoutimi Sagueneens v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/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, BCHL, USHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Rafaël Harvey-Pinard had a steady increase in his numbers every year since he entered the QMJHL at 17 years old, breaking the point-per-game mark in his sophomore season and then improving on it in Rouyn-Noranda’s Memorial Cup-winning run in 2018-19.

In this last Junior campaign, he has joined another strong formation aspiring to the CHL championship in the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. He’s also in a situation to continue drawing the upward curve of his production, considering the added experience and physical maturity he now possesses.

That being said, the Saguenéens are a new team and sometimes it can take some time to adjust to a different environment and new linemates. It’s only after being united with fellow Montreal Canadiens prospect Samuel Houde that Harvey-Pinard went back to what had earned him success in previous years.

Through a strong net-front game, the left-winger picked up goal after goal last week. Well, technically one of his goal wasn’t scored from the net-front. Harvey-Pinard attempted to slide a pass to the front of the crease, but he didn’t connect with a friendly stick. The puck bounced back to him as he slid behind the net. So, he did the next best thing and banked it off the goalie to score.

There is a dose of creativity in how he finds goals around the paint, and also technical ability.

His other goal against Shawinigan involved lifting a rebounding puck high with his backhand to slip it in the small hole above the goalie’s shoulder. Against Victoriaville, he hit — in mid-air — a shot coming from the blue line and deflected it off the goalie to bounce it into the net.

Those displays needed a high level of coordination; it’s not by chance that Harvey-Pinard scored 40 goals last year. He has it in him to continue being the finishing touch around the net for the plays Houde creates. They could continue developing a synergistic relationship that would benefit both prospects this season, and in the long run.

Cam Hillis, C, Guelph Storm

Speaking of beneficial duos, we’ve established in past editions of this series that Cam Hillis has exploded in production by taking advantage of the great release of Pavel Gogolev. Hillis is a passer and Gogolev is a shooter. It’s an age-old combination in any sport, and chemistry often rises from such a setup. Since the start of the season, Gogolev has factored in on 13 of the 20 points Hillis has picked up, and Hillis was implicated in 13 of the 25 points for Gogolev.

The pair has continued to be dangerous, especially on the power play where they man opposite flanks of Guelph’s formation.

Watch #17 (Gogolev) and #8 (Hillis) exchange the puck for some great plays from the last couple of weeks. Hillis reaches Gogolev (and his other teammates who can’t be totally forgotten) with a flurry of different feeds:

  • A fake wrist-shot transformed into a cross-ice pass by pushing his top hand away from his body at the last second;
  • A slap-pass where he freezes the goalie and slides the puck along the ice toward a friendly blade in front of the cage for a deflection;
  • A backhand behind-the-back pass, and;
  • A hook pass, where he flicks his wrist to send the puck laterally as it moves from the heel to the toe of his blade.

In some sequences, Gogolev makes the bulk of the play, fooling the remaining defenders and following it up by firing hard and precisely to beat set goalies. But even when Hillis doesn’t contribute directly to the play, his on-ice tendencies still helps his teammate get the necessary space for his release.

Watch the sequence below:

Gogolev (#17) makes his way along the half-wall. He has a defender on his back, and holds him off with one hand, keeping his body in between the puck and the opponent. With a few single-foot pushes, he gets in front of him, slips into space in front of the net, and lifts the puck above the goalie’s shoulder.

It was a highlight-reel play. It almost looked easy, as there was a runway in the slot for him to execute his shot.

Now rewatch the sequence focusing on Hillis.

The centreman rushes the slot from the opposite half-wall as #17 skates down. He attracts the attention of the defensive winger situated in mid-ice, and then cuts to the front of the net, like he so often does.

Jacob LeGuerrier of the Greyhounds — as the good man-to-man defenceman that he is — picks him up and spins toward him to neutralize his stick. In the process, he turns his back to Gogolev as he approaches the cage. He now can’t react in time to help his other teammate who got beat along the wall. At the same time, the other defenceman departed for the goal line to deal with another movement from a Guelph forward, which also makes him unable to act against Gogolev.

Good off-the-puck movements often don’t show up on the scoresheet, but can be just as instrumental in creating goals as deft passes. Hillis’s tendency to rush the net captured the attention of a part of the defence and created space for the approaching Gogolev.

Can Hillis show enough skill himself to make his NHL projection easier? That will be the question to answer this season. Right now, the centreman’s passing, his defensive abilities, and habits make him a good enabler of the talent around him, and a useful piece for any coach.

CHL Weekly Stats

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 3 1 5 6
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 3 2 2 4
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 3 2 2 4
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 2 2 2 4
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 3 0 1 1
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 4 2 4 6
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 4 0 1 1
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3 0 0 0

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 31 15 23 38
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 31 15 27 42
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 26 10 29 39
Allan McShane 2018 C OHL Oshawa 27 11 19 30
Jacob LeGuerrier 2019 LD OHL Sault Ste Marie 27 2 13 15
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Everett Silvertips 25 5 26 31
Gianni Fairbrother 2019 LD WHL Everett Silvertips 25 4 16 20
Kieran Ruscheinski 2019 LD BCHL Salmon Arm Silverbacks 30 0 3 3

NCAA Weekly Stats

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 1 1
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 2 2 0 2
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 2 0 1 1
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 1 1 2
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 2 0 0 0
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 0 0 0 0

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 14 1 1 2
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 18 12 8 20
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 15 3 7 10
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 14 2 3 5
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 17 3 8 11
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon 20 5 9 14