Editor’s note: With Jesperi Kotkaniemi being lost to the Carolina Hurricanes via offer sheet, we will be moving everyone who ranked behind him up one spot. The previous profiles will be updated to reflect the new order.
In 2019, the Montreal Canadiens had another pick near the end of the seventh round in the NHL Draft. It’s a round that has been kind to them in that regard, yielding Jake Evans, Brett Stapley, and Cayden Primeau in recent memory. Two years ago, it brought Rafaël Harvey-Pinard to the prospect pool. Fresh off a QMJHL and Memorial Cup title with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Canadiens saw plenty of talent in him, selecting him as an over-age player.
He put together one final strong season with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens that was unfortunately cut short due to the COVID pandemic, and soon found himself in an odd spot. He was too old for the CHL, but didn’t have to be signed to an entry-level contract by the Habs, either. He took a one-year AHL deal to play with the Laval Rocket last year, and it was well worth it as he became a great success story on a loaded Rocket team.
While Harvey-Pinard’s QMJHL stats suggest the profile of a winger who can score with ease, he isn’t going to be sniping goals like Cole Caufield or Jesse Ylönen. In fact, it reads a lot like current Habs vet Brendan Gallagher, and when you see Harvey-Pinard play it only reinforces that comparison.
The rookie winger landed fourth on the Rocket in scoring last season, and was one of two players to play in all 36 games. Despite being a feisty and competitive player, Harvey-Pinard took just one penalty all season, an impressive feat given how much time he spent living around the opponent’s net.
The votes from our panelists were fairly even across the board, with most ranking Harvey-Pinard is the mid to late teens or early 20s. I was again the high vote, with my personal belief being that his relentless style of play, being a bit older than the other prospects, and having the Canadiens attitude might help make him a bigger prospect as he progresses over the next few years.
Top 25 Under 25 History
|2020: #30||2019: #34|
After a couple of years outside the Top 25, Harvey-Pinard jumped well up the order in 2021 after proving his game could thrive at the pro level.
History of #18
By far the biggest part of Harvey-Pinard’s game is that he refuses to ever back down from a challenge. When I said he plays like Gallagher I meant it; everything he does right down to the number he wears is similar to the Habs’ alternate captain. He is relentless when driving toward the opposing net, and despite being just 5’9” he has no problem putting himself in those dangerous spots to make things happen.
If he isn’t able to cash in on the first chance, he’s going to try again, and again, until the play ends or the puck ends up behind the goalie. That sort of pressure is what the Canadiens will need in order to cash in on more scoring chances. With Harvey-Pinard, it’s never “one and done,” he’s always lingering looking to make something happen or to extend the play for as long as he can.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard briefly gives the Rocket a 1-0 lead with his 4th of the year. The Heat tied it up shortly after. pic.twitter.com/iJP1HqcYu4— Jared Book (@jaredbook) March 20, 2021
Even as a rookie, his coach, Joël Bouchard, trusted him in just about every situation on the ice. He played top-six minutes at even strength, was a featured penalty-killer, and could be found patrolling the crease on the power play. That’s not by accident either as his style of play made him a nuisance for opponents in all those situations. That flexibility makes him quite a valuable asset to the Rocket, and likely the Canadiens in short order.
Now comes the part where we also have to realize that the style he played in Junior and at the AHL level might not have the same impact in the NHL. His size does tend to see him bullied a bit by larger opponents, and while that doesn’t deter him from trying, it puts him in a situation where he might take a ton of punishment on his body.
While his scoring numbers have been good, he doesn’t quite have the game-breaking skill of some of the other prospects, which limits his professional scoring ceiling. Coupled with average to below-average skating, you have someone who is going to have to work even harder around the net to make things happen. Simply put, Harvey-Pinard isn’t going to be beating a lot of NHL goalies with clean shots over the shoulder, and that hurts his chances to take another step forward in his professional career.
Harvey-Pinard has proven he can hang at the AHL level without much difficulty in a shortened season. Now the goal is for him to keep the momentum rolling into his second year where he is going to be counted on in a big way for the Laval Rocket and the team’s new coaching staff.
His flexibility and style of play should make him an intriguing call-up option for the Canadiens. That will be the goal for Harvey-Pinard this year. At just 22 years of age, he has plenty of growing left to do in his game, but there’s no reason to think he couldn’t see time with the big club whether it be due to injuries or because his play gives the Canadiens no choice but to recall him.
There are concerns that his skating and lack of a game-breaking skill might hurt him as he transitions to the next level of pro hockey, but he thrives on those challenges as well. His hockey sense will put him in the spots to make things happen on the ice, and that alone will put him in position to succeed in his career. If he can fine tune some of his weaker skill areas, the Canadiens may very well have found another seventh-round steal from the NHL Draft.
Anton Rasegård and Patrik Bexell discuss the two twins that can’t be separated; Joël Teasdale and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.