Canadiens Harvey-Pinard’s Growth Could Force Offseason Moves
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard has not only taken advantage of his opportunity with the Montreal Canadiens but also cemented his standing with the team moving forward.
Although it may be a tad early to pencil Harvey-Pinard into the Habs’ top six for next season, the 24-year-old has been playing some of the most inspiring hockey of his career.
The Saguenay native added three goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, all in the same period, last night, the first Canadiens rookie to achieve the feat since Dick Gamble 71 years ago.
By bringing his totals up to 12 goals and five assists for 17 points in 29 games this season, Harvey-Pinard’s offence is starting to match his intensity and determination on the ice.
In the last year of his two-year, entry-level contract, Harvey-Pinard had a lot to prove this season.
What was once seen potentially a fourth-line player has shown the NHL and, most importantly, Montreal Canadiens management, that he is much more than your simple energy player.
After a slow start with the Laval Rocket this season, the gritty winger went on a tear in the months of December and January by scoring 18 points in his last 18 games before his call-up to Montreal.
«RHP» devient la première recrue du CH à réussir un tour du chapeau en une période depuis Dick Gamble en 1952 🤩 pic.twitter.com/c3cHrNCe1N
— TVA Sports (@TVASports) March 26, 2023
Seizing His Opportunity
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard took that momentum with him to the NHL and hasn’t looked back; forcing his way from a simple bottom-line call-up to a top-six fixture in a matter of weeks.
He’s quickly earned the trust and praise of head coach Martin St-Louis, who quickly saw the potential in his young winger and has challenged him with tougher missions; to fantastic results.
“I was told that he had a lot of details in his game. I think, to appreciate that, you needed a bigger sample than three or four games,” said St-Louis on Harvey-Pinard after last night’s game. “I think, with all the injuries, we got to see that big sample and all the details in his game.”
Those details, which go beyond the simple goal and assists columns on the scoresheet, have seen Harvey-Pinard’s ice time surge from an average of 12 minutes per game to a staggering 18 minutes over his last ten games.
Finding instant chemistry with captain Nick Suzuki, St-Louis was not surprised in the slightest; using the youngster’s momentum to stick the Quebec native with Suzuki as the perfect complement to the captain; given the current roster situation.
“His work ethic is ahead of the pack. His competitiveness is fun. He’s engaged on both ends of the ice; it’s rare that he doesn’t do his job on both ends of the ice. He’s a young player that’s always engaged and reads the play well on both ends of the ice. It’s not just where the puck is; it’s also where his teammates and the opposition are on the ice. His details and reads don’t change, no matter who he plays with.”
That’s quite the vote of confidence.
#Habs Kirby Dach to Rafael Harvey-Pinard for short handed goal vs #Wings
Assists: Dach, Savard@AllHabs @RocketSports #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/n8gSdUZ4mx
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) January 27, 2023
Cementing His Future With The Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens find themselves at a crossroads from an organizational perspective.
The bottom half of their lineup was littered with miscast veterans this season, while youngsters like Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylönen were forced to simmer in the AHL for a little longer; despite being NHL-ready.
Going into this summer, both Harvey-Pinard and Ylönen have shown that, when given the opportunity, they could be difference-makers; even in complementary roles.
If there was any hesitation in making moves this offseason to make room for these youngsters, that is now gone; as Harvey-Pinard is 6th on the Canadiens for goal-scoring; despite only playing 29 games this season.
Although it would be surprising for Harvey-Pinard to sustain his 27% shooting percentage and offensive pace over a full season; he’s shown he could bring value in many ways.
His ability to play in all situations, especially on the penalty kill, make him an invaluable piece for the Canadiens; who were starved for valuable role players to start the season.
With the Canadiens likely to have another logjam at forward next season and Harvey-Pinard no longer waiver exempt; Hughes will have to make some moves in order to make room for his burgeoning youth.
Whether it be Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman or Micheal Pezzetta; there isn’t a Canadiens lineup that you can draw up where they would be a better fit on the Canadiens’ bottom line than Harvey-Pinard.
The pending restricted free agent will also have to negotiate an extension before the start of next season; not that it should be much of an issue, given his performances of late.
A comfortable bridge contract in the two-year, 1.5M range would be ideal for the youngsters to get guaranteed NHL money and the runway to show just how valuable he could be to the team when the stakes are higher, as the organization shifts its rebuilding plan into another phase next season.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard has three goals… in one period… for his FIRST @Enterprise hat trick! 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/2V2nWYCLND
— NHL (@NHL) March 26, 2023
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RHP’s (& Ylönen’s) success reinforces what I’ve said in the past about letting kids over ripen in the minors. It’s a formula that worked for the Detroit dynasty in the 90s and Tampa more recently. If we leave the kids to develop with proper guidance in the AHL, and grow together into a Calder Cup champion, it buys us the time to shed vets and their contracts in the NHL. Being Montreal, we know there will be injuries galore, so there will be ample opportunities to call up kids from Laval throughout the year to test their readiness and reward their development at various stages of the season. That’s what should have happened with Slafkovsky this year. I know it’ll be viewed as a setback, but putting him in the AHL to play top minutes will be better for his development than deploying him in the bottom 6 again next season. If we can keep all waiver exempt kids in the AHL next year it’ll help relieve the logjam in the NHL and buy us time to move some vets out at the deadline or expiring contracts. Now that the season is winding down it would make for a decent article to look ahead and see who’s contracts are expiring next year and the implications that has for the kids waiting in the wings.
Yeah, RHP makes the team next season, even if its on the 4th line. Can’t get rid of him with this performance over just over a couple dozen games. Ylenon stays too, as does Gurianov. Plus, what if we draft a winger with our first pick in draft? And then add Farrell. Unknown if Slaf starts season in minors, maybe he will be forced to, with all these wingers…but not a bad idea, as you mentioned above. Still, that means Hoff and Armia and Anderson have to go…get whatever best deals you can get and consider them salary dumps and opening up spots for younger players of equal or better talent – at a reduced cost. Gally is un-tradable, IMO, based on age/performance/cap hit…so he stays.
Oh, and what about Joshua Roy coming up from the Quebec league??? He could make the team…
I would be surprised.
Hughes wants his prospects in Laval next season.
There’s no point in playing Roy on a 4th line while RHP is playing the way he is.
I think if there were any takers for Armia or Hoffman they’d be long gone already. Hopefully with Hoffman’s play of late we can find a taker with 50% salary retained on his final year. At $2.25M he can definitely help somebody. I guess we’ll have to disagree about Anderson though. He’s a keeper in my books unless we get an offer the just can’t be refused. As soon as we trade him we’ll be looking for a player that provides what he does for the next 10 years.
Why not get rid of all the vets while you’re at it. You can’t have a team of kids… doesn’t work. Will never work.