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Getting to know Montreal Canadiens 201st overall pick Rafael Harvey-Pinard

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The Canadiens make a trade to select a QMJHL prospect.

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It’s been a great QMJHL career for Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. His points totals steadily went up in his first three years in the league, capping off his stint with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies with an 85-point season, a nealy 1.5-points-per-game playoff run, and a Memorial Cup championship.

After turning 20 in January, he was set play another season in the QMJHL next year with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, but being selected by his home club, in his third year of draft eligibility, could change those plans.

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There may be a spot for him with the Laval Rocket of the AHL, the Montreal Canadiens’ farm team, It’s a decision that Harvey-Pinard, Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard, and the player personnel staff will determine after the various camps the team holds this off-season.

Should the decision be for him to begin his professional career, Bouchard will have an idea of what he’s getting, facing off against Harvey-Pinard in their shared time in the QMJHL. The new prospect is a hard-working player who runs around the ice in top gear trying to make positive things happen.

Much of his offence comes from that style, battling with defencemen — usually ones much larger than his 5’9”, 171-pound frame — right in front of the net to jam away at pucks. It’s not an overly skilled style, but it has been effective at the Junior level, and should continue to be in the AHL.

His energy doesn’t relent on defence as he hounds his man trying to get the puck back, or throws his body at a shot to prevent it from getting to the net. He can pounce on loose pucks when the other team is thinking offence on a power play, making him a real threat to break away short-handed.

“Break away” may not be the proper term. Churning his way down the ice as fast as his limited pace will allow is more accurate. The lack of speed is his biggest fault, and the one that led to him being passed over in two drafts, and nearly a third before the Canadiens added a pick to choose him in the sevneth round. He would have a hard time making his game work at the NHL level despite his other qualities, as professional as they are.

Harvey-Pinard can probably best be termed an AHL prospect. The Canadiens have gained the rights to him without needing to sign him to a contract, which they would have if he went undrafted, so they have some options to evaluate him without worrying about another team swooping in to add him to their depth.

Marc Bergevin and the amateur scouting staff clearly felt it was worth spending a draft pick — indeed making a trade to add a pick — on his potential, perhaps hoping some work on his skating could get him over the wall that is blocking his path to the NHL.

In all, there isn’t much room for criticism on a seventh-round pick. The Canadiens have done some incredible things at that stage of the draft in previous years, most notably adding Jake Evans in 2014, Cayden Primeau in 2017, and promising centre prospect Brett Stapley last year, but there shouldn’t be an expectation of a quality NHL prospect so late in the draft.

Who knows, maybe Harvey-Pinard will unlock his skating stride and mitigate what is his major weakness. Should he get his skating to an average level, his hockey sense and tenacity could really make him a dangerous player, and increase his slim odds of playing in the top league.