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Jordan Harris Discusses Play Of Canadiens Rookie Defencemen



Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jordan Harris

MONTREAL– As the Montreal Canadiens prepared to take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, rookie Jordan Harris discussed his early-season progress, as well as the play of his fellow rookies.

The last time these two teams met up, Harris only had 13 games of NHL experience under his belt, or, roughly 3.5 hours of total career ice time facing professional players.

Even though he’s almost doubled his work experience since the last encounter, he’s quick to admit the novelty of playing against elite players is yet to wear off.

“Not at all,” said Harris with a wry smile. “Especially since this is my first year. You just try to take in everything. And even if we already played them, it’s still Sidney Crosby at the end of the day, and all the other great players they have. You have to respect them, but not respect them too much. They have a lot of speed and skill up front, so defending fast and defender hard will be key.”

Fellow rookie Kaiden Guhle was tasked with covering Crosby on Oct.17, facing the Penguins captain in 15 of the 24 minutes he played.

It’s worth noting that Guhle didn’t just play a lot against Crosby, he played incredibly well. The Guhle and David Savard pairing controlled almost 70 percent of the shots, which is exactly what the Canadiens will need to emerge victorious against the Penguins for the second time in the season.

For rookies like Harris, Guhle, Jonathan Kovacevic and Arber Xhekaj, the fact that they’ve had a grace period to acclimatize to the rigours of being a professional athlete should alleviate some of the anxiety involved in facing a player as talented as Evgeni Malkin.

“You prepare every game the same,” said Harris. “But I definitely think things have slowed down a lot, and I’m starting to build a foundation to my game, and it’s in a good place. But still, there’s stuff I’d like to build off, add more offensively and continue what I’m doing defensively. I definitely think it’s been a good start.”

You could qualify Harris’ start as a lot more than just good.

His pairing with Kovacevic has become the Canadiens’ most reliable shutdown duo in terms of underlying numbers.

And while it may be surprising to see a rookie-dominated defensive group in the NHL, the players involved are far from shocked.

“I’m not really surprised,” said Harris. “Because I know how much talent we have. Everybody is ready to step up no matter the situation, 20 plus minutes, 15 minutes, power play, penalty kill, everyone has stepped in seamlessly. For me, it hasn’t been a surprise, four rookie defencemen playing heavy minutes, but kudos to the coaching staff for putting trust in us. It’s been a lot of fun being part of it.”

Jordan Harris hits on a very important aspect of establishing an NHL identity: fun.

No matter how intense the assignment happens to be, players, especially rookies, must find joy in the game.

Being able to share the experience with three other rookies has certainly helped, given they can exchange tips, discuss growing pains, and acclimatize to the NHL in a group rather than in isolation.

“There’s a little bit of a rallying cry over over rookie defencemen, and it’s fun,” said Harris. “We really stuck together. It’s been a good time.”

As the famous poet Louis Jordan said, let the good times roll.

(All Canadiens and Jordan Harris statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)

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He’s got a good head on his shoulders. Shows in his play.

Curtis Ault

He didn’t play well against Pittsburgh, their forwards seemed to key on him. He’ll learn from it.

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