The Montreal Canadiens have not had the best luck the past two seasons, but that could change sooner than expected with the team lining up fresh new talent in the draft.
With the 71st overall pick in last year’s entry draft, they chose 5-foot-11, 179-pound defenseman Jordan Harris. Harris is a native of Haverhill, Massachusetts, a suburb located north of downtown Boston.
Prep League Draft Pick
Prior to being drafted by the Canadiens, Harris played three seasons at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, where he received exceptional praise from head coach Tim Whitehead.
In recent years, Kimball Union has been a powerhouse in the New England prep league. They have won the Elite 8 Championship in the past three consecutive seasons and have sent plenty of young players on NCAA hockey, as well as other high-end junior leagues. In Harris’ three years at Kimball Union, he tallied 18 goals, 64 assists, and 82 points in a total of 121 games. He was also a member of two Elite 8 title teams.
Due to the lower level of competition compared to Major Junior, the New England Prep School League does not produce many NHL Draft picks every year. In fact, Harris was one of only six players chosen in the draft from the New England Prep league. The main reason for this is general managers and scouts from the NHL find it hard to project how these young players will develop, and would rather be patient to see how things will play out when they go off to college.
Although, not many players are drafted from the Prep League on a consistent basis, the system has plenty of alumni currently playing in the NHL. Some notable alumni in the NHL include Kevin Hayes (Noble and Greenough/Winnipeg Jets), Charlie Coyle (Thayer Academy/Boston Bruins), Jonathan Quick (Avon Old Farms/LA Kings), Alex Killorn (Deerfield Academy/Tampa Bay Lightning), and Conor Sheary (Cushing Academy/Buffalo Sabres), among others.
2018-19: Northeastern University
This past year, Harris played his first year of college hockey at Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern plays in the highly competitive Hockey East Conference under head coach Jim Madigan.
At Northeastern, Harris notched 13 points in 39 games and was a plus-21. He was also an integral part of a team that won the prestigious Beanpot Tournament and a Hockey East Championship.
Northeastern featured numerous NHL prospects, including fellow Canadiens prospect Cayden Primeau and New Jersey Devils prospect Jeremy Davies, both of whom decided to leave Northeastern early to turn professional. With the departure of Davies, who is such a crucial player for the team, coach Madigan and the Huskies will rely heavily on Harris next season to provide offence from the backend.
Related: Canadiens Sign Primeau & Poehling
A New-School Defenseman
Harris is a new-school defenseman. You might ask yourself, what is a new-school defenseman? Well, it’s a hybrid defenseman who can skate as well as a forward and can also create plenty of offense, while being steady on defense as well. It has become a huge trend in today’s fast-paced game and is a major reason as to why 2018-19 was the highest-scoring season in NHL history.
New-school defensemen have become a crucial part of today’s game, since the game has become much more rapid and technically skilled than ever before. With this new pace, very rarely can a player be successful without great skating ability.
Hybrid defensemen have become crucial in the NHL as they can create offense in any situation. Whether it be even strength or on the power play, they are always thinking about moving the puck forward and activating to join the forwards in order to create odd-man rushes.
Related: The Changing Role of Defensemen
What Habs Fans Can Expect
Canadiens fans can expect Harris to be an offensive catalyst from the backend. He anticipates and reads plays very well and uses those instincts to shift gears at exactly the right moment to join the rush. Harris is calm under pressure and possesses good skating ability that allows him to break the puck out of the zone on his own if need be.
Although, like many young offensive defensemen of his age and stature, Harris lacks physicality and intensity on defence. If he intends on being an impact player in the NHL, gaining strength and playing with a bit more of an edge will be vital to his success.
In my opinion, Harris can be compared well to Brandon Montour of the Sabres. Montour was acquired by the Sabres at this season’s trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2019 first-round pick and defenseman Brandon Guhle. Montour plays a fast, up-tempo game and loves to create offense off the rush. If Harris can develop into a player like Montour, Habs fans everywhere have a lot to be excited for in the future.
In the offseason, Harris will look to become stronger and develop his skills before returning to Northeastern for his sophomore season. The young defenseman will also most likely be in Montreal in late June to participate in the Canadiens’ annual development camp.
Canadiens fans should also watch out for this summer’s edition of the World Junior Summer Showcase that will likely be played in late July, and may feature a few Canadiens prospects, including Harris. The World Junior Summer Showcase is used as preliminary tryout for players looking to earn a spot on their country’s respective U-20 IIHF World Junior Championship team.
The Habs may have had a rough couple of years, but with so many talented young players like Harris being lined up to join the legendary Blue, Blanc et Rouge, that luck is likely to change sooner than fans could imagine.