When the 2018 NHL Draft rolled around, the Montreal Canadiens had two prominent needs: centres and defencemen. By the end of the draft, they remedied both situations with a heavy emphasis on CHL centres like current #19 prospect Cam Hillis. They also began the rebuild of their defensive prospect pool with the selection of Alexander Romanov and Jordan Harris.
While Romanov has grabbed the spotlight with his play in the KHL and on the international stage, Harris has also put forth a great showing at Northeastern University playing a key role for the Huskies. He’s now joined by Jayden Struble who was drafted in 2019 at NU and has grown into not only a crucial part of their defence, but as veteran leader on the team as a whole. Harris has increased his production, and as a junior this year he’ll be looking to improve on a stellar sophomore season.
With 21 points in 33 games, Harris finished as the second-highest scoring defender on the team, and in the top six overall. Northeastern as a whole were not an overly strong team in the Hockey East conference, so Harris performing so strongly is a great sign for his development. Perhaps no goal was bigger last season than his goal in the Beanpot tournament, when he ripped home the overtime winner in the final against Boston University.
The votes were fairly spread out, ranging from seventh overall down to 24 with our panelists. The majority of our votes fell in the teens as Harris continues to transition from a high school unknown to standout NCAA defender.
Top 25 Under 25 History
|2018: #30||2019: #25|
Harris continues to be a steady riser in the Top 25 Under 25 rankings, starting at 30th overall, before rising to a tie for 25th last year, and eventually up to 16th this year. His rise in the rankings is impressive given the new talent flooding in and a testament to how much Harris has grown as a player since his draft year.
History of #16
Harris has been a jack of all trades in his two seasons at Northeastern, showing great maturity in his game and as the anchor on defence for the Huskies. As our own David St-Louis wrote back in April, Harris opting to stay at Northeastern for one more year was the smart move, but he has a great base to build on going forward.
Where Harris currently stands out the most is in his ability to defend against opposing rushes, often preventing them in their own zone before they can become a threat. He circles up into the offensive zone, trying to meet the opposing attackers at their own blue line, and pushes them away from the middle of the ice. Possessing high-end agility and mobility, Harris can cover huge swaths of ice in just a few steps, then uses his great lateral movement to increase his defensive range.
It’s not often that Harris finds himself out of position or miscalculating an impending attack, but when he is, his skating abilities allow him to close the gap quickly, re-posture defensively, and often start the rush the other way.
This poise and posture also applies largely to his offensive game as well. With his confidence growing, we’ve seen Harris make more controlled plays and attempt more skillful endeavors on the ice. As St-Louis noted once again, Harris has started welcoming opposing forecheckers to create time and space for his teammates, and with a short pass has begun another successful breakout transition.
In the offensive zone he’s increased his ability to make himself a viable option for shooting the puck. He keeps his patrols in the offensive zone tight and simple. and has begun to open up more shooting lanes for himself, along with passing options for his teammates. His growth here is unmistakable with his increased production on a Northeastern team that didn’t always produce heavy offensive numbers.
The AHL is likely the next step for Harris, and while he has grown tremendously in his two NCAA seasons, there’s a lot of work left to go in getting him ready for the pros. Chief among them is that in the offensive zone Harris tends to miss key opportunities due to a simplistic offensive game. He doesn’t utilize his speed and agility to create a harder read for opposing defences, and lacks deception in his attacks. He has the mobility to become far more engaged in the offensive zone, and if he borrowed a page from Struble’s book and went for higher risk plays he would likely see a huge increase in his production.
At the professional level you have to add in a level of deceit to your game, otherwise opposing defences are going to hone in on your attacking style, and crush it out quickly.
His in-zone defensive play, while quite solid, also requires a bit of mental work going into his junior year. Harris in his own end tends to let opposing attackers make the first move, and react to that, as opposed to being proactive and engaging them first. He plays a very aggressive style everywhere else on the ice, transferring some of that mindset into his own zone might create more chances for him at the next level and allow him to utilize his skating to its fullest extent.
Harris is more than likely going to end up a solid professional hockey player. He has a fantastic base to build off of, and plays a game that makes him extremely coach-friendly. What level of professional hockey that will be remains to be seen yet, because Harris could become a regular everyday NHL defender if he can work on his offensive game, and at the same time he could top out as an NHL/AHL tweener just as easily.
There’s a lot of maturity in Harris’s game that his coaches, and more than likely the Canadiens, have noticed. His defensive standing is going to help get him acclimated to the professional game, but his growth from there is tied to ironing out the few flaws in his game.
He’s never going to be the focus of the prospect pool. He wasn’t in his own draft year thanks to Romanov, and then the emergence of Mattias Norlinder has left him firmly out of the prospect spotlight. Yet, Harris has a skillset that seems to be tailor-made for the professional game. He may have flown under the fan radar, but that doesn’t mean he should have.
Anton and Patrik discuss the voting, and the two players (Lukas Vejdemo and Jordan Harris) ranked 17th and 16th in the latest episode of Habsent Minded below: