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, WHL) and collegiate (NCAA) level.
Jeremy Davies, Northestern’s very dynamic number-one defenceman and one of the team’s very top players, was suspended for an incident at the end of the game against Boston College on Friday, a contest the Huskies lost 3-1 to their Hockey East rival. It placed the team in an awkward position going into Saturday night.
Northeastern is still fighting for second place in the standings of their NCAA conference, so all points matter for them, especially with the season coming to its close. Being forced to ice a diminished team on the second game of their back-to-back against Boston College could not have made their coaching staff very happy.
But, from an outside perspective (one focused on the development of Montreal Canadiens prospects), it made the game even more exciting. It meant that Jordan Harris would get more time to shine, maybe giving everyone a taste of what is to come for him next year if Davies ends up leaving for the New Jersey Devils organization.
It seems that every time we touch on Harris in this series we talk about him in the perspective of the future. What he could do and will do once his game has matured and the defenceman becomes more comfortable on the college ice. That NCAA ice might be sometimes bigger, but it still leaves a lot less room to manoeuvre than the high-school surface Harris was playing on just a few months ago due to the large increase in the quality of his competition. It is that big jump that changes the lens with which we look at the defenceman. For Harris, it’s more about projections than what he is doing right now.
However, the absence of Davies on Saturday was an occasion to take a glimpse at what the next few years for Harris might look like with Northeastern, and what the Habs defenceman could do without having to play behind his partner who spends most of the game flying up and down the surface, leaving less room for Harris to attempt the same.
The Habs’ third-rounder’s skill set could enable him to become that guy for the Huskies. He doesn’t have the same natural offensive instinct as Davies, but he is a pretty good skater, quick and agile on his edges, and he doesn’t lack confidence.
Saturday’s game didn’t disappoint. All shyness was gone from Harris’s play. He was in the driver’s seat and carrying everyone else up the ice. That’s not to say it was a game without mistakes, because there were a lot of mistakes. The defenceman committed more than his fair share of turnovers — some pretty dangerous ones too — and his on-ice movements sometimes lacked efficiency and purpose. But even considering all of that, a lot of sequences remained promising and exciting.
Harris showed the extent of the 200-foot game he can have when he is unleashed. He consistently made himself available, taking the puck from his zone all the way to the other end. He was a good trailing option off the rush as his team crossed the offensive blue line, and showed that he does possess some dangling abilities. He also displayed that he can walk the blue line and drag defenders from one side of the ice to the other, and do it again back the other way if need be.
The following clip shows Harris defending a zone entry, separating an attacker from the puck, and immediately exploding the other way to rush the puck up. This way, he turned defence into offence with his mobility.
This is what Harris’s impact could be as a top defenceman. His skating allows him to reposition quickly to defend off the rush, break up opposing plays, and create the needed separation to be a good option on the breakout, helping his team escape forechecking pressure.
In that second game of the back-to-back this weekend, the defenceman recorded two assists, bringing his season total up to a respectable 11 points in 33 games. His second point of the night was probably his most impressive. In an extended offensive zone sequence, he banged his stick repeatedly, wanting the puck sent his way.
The wait was worth it. When he finally received it, he was in prime position to attack the slot for a shot. As he skated forward and attracted two defenders, he located one of his teammates on his left, so he threaded the puck under one of the opponent’s sticks and slid it over to the supporting Huskie who didn’t miss his shot.
Cayden Primeau, G, Northeastern Huskies
The absence of Davies also set up the stage for Cayden Primeau, who seems to enjoy nothing more than uphill battles where he has to stand on his head to give his team a chance to win. When the odds seem less favourable, this is probably when you should bet on the goalie to steal the show.
Primeau stopped 41 of 43 shots to earn his 20th victory of the season, only allowing the two goals when his team already had a 4-0 lead. Northeastern took their foot off the gas pedal, and after some defensive breakdowns saw Boston College come back into the game. The momentum shifted for the last few minutes, but it was too little too late for the opposition.
Not that Boston College’s offence was at all asleep on Saturday. No, the 43 shots are a testament to their numerous attempts to solve Primeau, but the netminder’s athleticism and his strong focus stood in their way.
He made one of his best saves of the season on a lateral pass in the slot. The goalie read the feed and made a controlled push to his left, put up his glove, and caught the one-timer from just a few feet away.
Primeau is up to a .929 save percentage over the season, closing in on the record totals he had in 2017-18 (.937).
The Huskies only have one more regular-season game left against New Hampshire University before they head to the Hockey East playoffs. They don’t have the same offensive power as last season, but have remained a threat in the majority of games they played this year.
Currently ranked at number eight in the NCAA, they could more than make some noise in the post-season and clinch their ticket for the Frozen Four. Their fate will be determined by the play of their netminder first and foremost, but Primeau has already proven that he has what it takes to carry Northeastern to victories and defeat Massachusetts, the number-one Hockey East team.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
CHL season to date
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||66||43||37||80|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||59||34||60||94|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||67||29||44||73|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||59||16||59||75|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||37||4||11||15|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||32||7||23||30|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||34||1||11||12|
Cayden Primeau’s season to date