The Montreal Canadiens team has been reeling for the entire season. They lost their first five games and have been pretty much at the bottom of the standings ever since.
Not only did they start the year poorly, but they have since been forced to deal with numerous injuries to key players and are currently battling an incredible wave of Covid that is running rampant in the team’s dressing room.
With Cayden Primeau and Paul Byron added to the Covid list yesterday, the Canadiens now have 11 players ineligible to play due to the virus. It has forced the team to dig deep into the minor league roster to put together a lineup at the NHL level.
Many of the players will be sent back down once the Canadiens players get healthy, but Rafael Harvey-Pinard is going to make it difficult. The scrappy left winger made his NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and he scored in his first game with the Canadiens.
Obviously, if he keeps scoring every game he will be kept at the NHL level, but even without goals, Harvey-Pinard is the type of player that would be difficult to ever send down.
The Jonquiere, Quebec native was drafted by the Canadiens in the 2019 NHL Draft. He followed that up with a strong final QMJHL season that saw him score 34 goals and 78 points in 62 games before the initial wave of Covid-19 shut down the 2019-20 QMJHL season.
In 2020-21, Harvey-Pinard made his pro debut with the Laval Rocket and he scored nine goals and 20 points in 36 games. This season, he had 14 points in 24 games before being called up by the decimated Canadiens.
But it is not just the points that make Harvey-Pinard effective. The 22 year old left winger plays a scrappy, gritty style and though he is just 5’9″ and 173 pounds he wins far more battles for pucks than he loses and often gets great positioning in front of the net as he battles much bigger defenders on a regular basis.
He earned the nickname among Rocket fans as “Laval’s Gallagher” due to the many similarities between himself and the Canadiens right winger. While Michael Pezzetta earned a call up himself due to his work ethic and physicality, Harvey-Pinard brings those elements as well as being a decent offensive contributor as well.
Harvey-Pinard is the kind of player that can contribute on any line. He fits in on a fourth line because he has the speed and physicality to bring a forechecking presence. He can play with skilled players and do some of the heavy lifting for them while also having a scoring touch around the net. He just gives an incredible effort on every shift and looks like a left shooting Gallagher on many nights.
Eventually, the Canadiens lineup will get healthy, I think. If the team were fully healthy, they have Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, Brendan Gallagher, Mike Hoffman, Josh Anderson, Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia, Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen on the wings.
That is pretty deep on both wings, but Harvey-Pinard is the type of player that is going to make it almost impossible to send him down. Even in the incredibly unlikely scenario that the Canadiens team eventually gets healthy.