In the 7th round of the 2019 draft, the Canadiens decided to take a chance with the most-recent captain of the QMJHL to win both the President Cup and the Memorial trophy. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who turned 20 in June, played the past 3 seasons as a member of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL. I had the chance to closely observe Harvey-Pinard these pasts 2 years in every home game and let me tell you: He’s a special player.
Size & Grit:
Let me start with the obvious concern every fan had when they went on RHP EliteProspects or HockeyDB page: Yes, he is 5’9”, and yes, he weighs about 165 pounds, give or take some. But despite his size, Harvey-Pinard is one of those small but tough-as-nails guys who’s always fighting for the puck in corners. In the past 2 years, I must have seen him battling for the puck in rough areas against bigger guy over 200 times, and saw him losing these battles or being knocked down maybe 5 times at most. What makes Harvey-Pinard special is that he never gives up and has an incredible work ethic. He doesn’t have the size to battle against a guy who’s 6’3”, but he’ll outwork anyone on the ice every single night. Knock him down, push him, do whatever you will, Rafaël will always stay on the puck no matter what anyone might try. Resilience is the word that describes the entire play-style of Harvey-Pinard. He plays hard and never stops, which makes him a total nuisance in the offensive zone for the other team. But he’s also more than just toughness. Although he might not be the most skilled player who got drafted by the Canadiens this year, Harvey-Pinard has a decent set of hands and a pretty hard wrist shot for such a small guy, which makes him even more dangerous. Because of his size and his persistence, he’s able to battle himself out of the corner and slide past a player in order to open up passing lanes along the slot. He isn’t a peripheral player, but he isn’t a net-front presence in the same style as Joël Teasdale. He’s a guy who’ll create space for his linemates and work hard on the puck.
Skating, Defensive Aspect & Potential:
As for the defensive aspect of the game, I can guarantee you this kid is a stud. He was heavily used on the PK for Rouyn-Noranda, for two main reasons. The first is that Harvey-Pinard is able to accelerate very quickly from the defensive zone to the neutral zone. While the other team is attacking, he’ll put a ton of pressures on the d-man, and as soon as a mistake is made, he’ll explode in a straight line down the middle of the ice. He and Félix Bibeau had a high number of scoring chances this year on the Penalty Kill because of that impressive burst of speed and RHP ability to read the play defensively. I’d personally go as far as to say RHP has a better defensive awareness than offensive awareness, although his offensive vision is not too shabby.
Being a very explosive and hard-working player means that RHP must do his best to stockpile his energy whenever he can. He’ll never slack off and always do his best to be where he needs to be, but this also means he won’t do unnecessary stuff. He plays a style most reminiscent of Brendan Gallagher: Ugly, yet really effective. The main difference between the two players is that, in my opinion, Gallagher is faster, bulkier and has a better shot, while Harvey-Pinard has better hands. I believe Rafaël Harvey-Pinard will see some action in the NHL someday, sooner than later. He’s the kind of fuse guy you can insert anywhere in a lineup in order to bring a spark to a line desperate for any kind of help in the three zones. I think he has the potential to become a good bottom-6 player, capable of scoring 10 goals and around 20-25 points every year. Realistically speaking, he will probably be an excellent AHL player who will show others how to be a pro. But, as Brendan Gallagher showed most of us, there might be way more in store from the small winger.