Canadiens Defenceman Jordan Harris’ Surprising Rookie Season
Not every Montreal Canadiens defenceman earned their fair share of praise this season.
But when there’s a bevy of rookies in the mix, which was the case for the Canadiens’ blueline, avoiding the headlines can be considered a good sign.
That was definitely the case for Jordan Harris, who ended up being one of the biggest surprises in the entire organization.
By The Numbers
Coming into development camp, Harris was mostly listed as a darkhorse candidate to earn a healthy number of games in the NHL while spending the bulk of his season with the Laval Rocket in the AHL.
It’s not that analysts doubted his impact, but for the most part, defencemen need a few seasons to properly acclimatize to their new league, new team, new teammates, new coach, and new strategies.
But Harris is not most defencemen. He’s a rookie that plays with the confidence and poise of a 10-year veteran.
Jordan Harris with some excellent rush D, active stick. It's hard to even get his highlights because he does little things like this many times per game. pic.twitter.com/fwV86voseR
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 2, 2022
His greatest strength, intelligence, didn’t just allow him to quickly adapt to the NHL, but it also served him well as he emerged as the type of defenceman which you could project making a significant long-term impact for the Canadiens.
The first sign Harris was fitting into Martin St-Louis’ system was his ability to maintain positive shot share numbers relative to his teammates.
It wasn’t just a matter of playing a staunch defensive style, either.
Harris made a positive impact in shots for, as well as shots against. You’ll note his most commonly used defensive partner, Johnathan Kovacevic, also did a great job helping his team control the shots whenever he was on the ice.
Before we jump to his relative expected goals percentage, we should note that Harris had positive possession numbers alongside Mike Matheson and Kaiden Guhle, as well. More on that later.
Projecting The Future
One of the best metrics we have when it comes to judging relatively long-term value is Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%). It weighs shot quality, quantity, and several other important statistics.
As was the case in shot share, both Harris and Kovacevic stood out as the Canadiens’ most impactful defencemen in terms of relative xGF%.
And it wasn’t a close race, either.
As you can see, Guhle once again finds himself near the bottom of the list, a direct result of playing against opposing teams’ top lines with questionable defensive partners.
But when Harris played alongside Guhle, they managed to control over 57 percent of the expected goals, which is something the team hopefully noted as they attempt to figure out the ideal pairings next season.
Simply put, Harris tends to improve his defensive partners, which is quite an accomplishment for a rookie defenceman.
Doing a great job controlling high-danger scoring chances.
Harris didn’t just mitigate the high-quality scoring chances from opponents while he was on the ice, though he was the team’s second-best defenceman in that regard.
He also had the greatest impact in terms of generating high-danger chances.
Thanks to a keen eye for knowing when to join the rush, as well as a strong penchant for creating individual high-danger chances, Harris drove the charge, which is especially noteworthy given the Canadiens’ inability to control high-quality scoring chances this season.
Jordan Harris’ goal tonight, what a pass by Drouin pic.twitter.com/1LQb8edS20
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 27, 2023
Harris’ season was not perfect, nor did anyone expect it to be.
Though we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the fact that he’s the defencemen credited with the fewest giveaways this season, and by a rather large margin, too.
However, all things considered, despite the lack of praise in the media, Harris quickly and efficiently established himself as a crucial member of the Canadiens’ defensive core moving forward.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.
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So Harris and Special K are one duo. Who plays with Math, Barron or Ghule? Does Arber X fit in anywhere in the September/October line up outside of Laval? Is Savard a top 4 D-Man on any other team in the NHL? Does Edmundson have any tread in his NHL tires? It seems these are the top 8 in the system With injuries all will play, but somehow it feels like the Habs might want a R.D. Vet with some offensive chops to land here if possible.