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2022 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #17 Rafaël Harvey-Pinard

The heart and soul of the Laval Rocket followed a strong rookie effort with a standout AHL season.

Philadelphia Flyers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

When it comes to seventh-round draft picks, no one in the NHL has seemingly had more success than the Montreal Canadiens in recent years. Jake Evans has carved out a regular NHL role, and Cayden Primeau is coming off a dominant AHL playoff run with the Laval Rocket. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard is appearing to be the next of those picks, after piecing together a solid rookie year, his sophomore effort was outstanding. At 23 years old, Harvey-Pinard is a young leader for the Rocket, and checks in at #17 on this year’s Top 25 Under 25 list.

Under former coach Joël Bouchard, Harvey-Pinard quickly rose up the Rocket lineup through his hard work and efforts on the ice every night. That didn’t change with J-F Houle at the helm as the young winger was a fixture on Laval’s top line opposite Jesse Ylönen and J-S Dea. His ability to work in tough areas opened up all sorts of room for his linemates and by the end of the year, he was the club’s leading scorer.

In a small NHL call-up time, he also managed to make an impact, scoring his first NHL goal in his first game. His growth in the AHL, his size, and style of play have drawn comparisons to Brendan Gallagher, and if the Habs have found another Gallagher at 201st overall they’re truly lucky.

Elite Prospects

Harvey-Pinard has always been a consistent producer of offence at the QMJHL, and now AHL level, but he’s never been able to crack into the elite upper tier of scorers in either league. Despite leading the Rocket with 56 points, which placed him 30th in the AHL last year, and his 35 assists in 28th.

However, the Rocket was a team built around scoring by committee rather than one or two stars pacing them every night. It’s also worth noting that when compared to his linemates, he was one of the league leaders in plus/minus, highlighting his stronger defensive efforts every night. He was a true Swiss Army knife for the coaching staff, playing heavy even-strength minutes, the top line of the penalty kill, and on the power play.

Wearing an A on his sweater on most nights, he was a true on-ice leader for the Rocket and featured in many of their biggest moments of the year. He became a clutch overtime performer and a reliable piece to get the job done when the game was on the line.

Voting

When it comes to the votes, most of the panel had Harvey-Pinard in the late teens to early 20s, with two votes just outside of the Top 25.

A lot of his game is based on effort and not as much on high-end skill, so there may be a cap on how far he can rise in the eyes of some voters.

Top 25 Under 25 History

2021: #18 2020: #30 2019: #34

He made his first appearance in the Top 25 after two years missing out. While he rises just one spot this year, we’ve been seeing in this range of players that holding your position from 2021 is difficult with the top talent added over the past year.

History of #17

Year #17
Year #17
2021 Riley Kidney
2020 Lukas Vejdemo
2019 Lukas Vejdemo
2018 Cayden Primeau
2017 Simon Bourque
2016 Daniel Audette
2015 Noah Juulsen
2014 Christian Thomas
2013 Jacob de la Rose
2012 Mac Bennett
2011 Mac Bennett
2010 Joonas Nattinen

Strengths

When it comes to Harvey-Pinard his biggest strength, without a doubt, is his relentless work ethic in all three zones of the ice. While he’s never going to be the biggest player on the ice, he uses his frame to its biggest advantage, ducking under opponents and sneaking into soft spaces for scoring chances. He didn’t earn the nickname “Lavalagher” on accident, as his hustle and drive mimic what Habs fans have seen for years in Gallagher.

While much of Harvey-Pinard’s production comes from him doing the ugly work around the crease and behind the net, he has also proven to be a highly proficient finisher in his own right. True to his nature, he finds open lanes to the net and makes himself an instantly open target and seemingly creates goals with ease. Finding those soft spots in opposing defences is what is going to help push him further in his career, and given his current ascent, it’s hard to bet against that.

The effort mentioned above also goes beyond just offensive play, as he is more than capable of playing big defensive minutes. He covers ground well and pressures puck carriers while never really chasing the play. The flexibility in his game makes him a favourite of his coaches, and a perfect candidate on any line on a given night.

Weaknesses

While he is a jack of all trades, he’s also a master of none. He doesn’t possess a high-end shot like Ylönen, or truly high-end skating skill to create space on his own. His relentless effort helps cover for some of these deficiencies, and they’re not actively hampering his overall game either.

However, at the NHL level effort can only get a player so far before hitting a wall in terms of development. If Harvey-Pinard can improve his skating abilities as he fights for an NHL roster spot there’s still another level of production that he can reach. His offensive instincts and production are good, but it’s unclear how much will transfer over to the next level, or what kind of role he might play.

Projection

He has become a fan favourite in Laval over the last two seasons. He hustles hard, never quits on plays, and comes up with big goals when they count the most. He’s also a great success story for the Canadiens AHL staff as they continue to build a solid pipeline to the NHL level.

Many fans have clamored for him to get an NHL look, and given the state of the Canadiens, he will have every opportunity to do so in the preseason. Until some of the fat is trimmed off the current Habs roster though, it appears that he might only be cracking the lineup in a bottom-six role. If he can continue to improve his offensive output and work on his skating, he might find a permanent middle-six role, but without a high-end talent in his toolkit, it’s likely the feisty winger will not become a top-line star.

That’s fine, however, as good teams need good role players in their lineup to support the star players. Harvey-Pinard is trending in that direction and is likely to be an NHL regular before long. He’ll work hard and produce some offence, but he’s not likely to be the star name people talk about all the time.