Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.
This edition will be a bit more Habs-centered, but it’s for a good reason: some great storylines have emerged from their pipeline over the last week or so, and I thought it’d be a great time to look at what’s going on in Montréal at the moment. First, we’ll start with the Habs’ most recent rookie signing, who slotted into the lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning and did more than just hold his own.
Jordan Harris Impresses in NHL Debut
After captaining Northeastern to a Beanpot finals appearance and an early regionals exit, the Habs’ third-round pick in 2018 didn’t waste any time inking his entry-level contract with the Habs. The shortened two-year deal will likely expire at the end of 2022-2023, which is a contract he only would’ve been able to sign with the Canadiens. If Harris had hit free-agency in the summer and chosen to sign with anyone else, the blueliner’s contract would likely have spanned three years and resulted in more years of arbitration for the 21-year-old.
Although Harris didn’t register a point in the 15:55 he played in his debut, he left a lasting impression on Habs fans — one that encompasses very well what he brings to the table. His skating ability was a clear standout in his game, and his poise was tremendous for a rookie taking his first steps in the NHL. His first shift (pictured above) was against the Point-Stamkos-Kucherov line, and he did not look out of place at all. He got a shot off, and defended the rush very well, remaining aware of his surroundings and cycling the puck towards open teammates with ease.
Harris thinks the game at a very high level. That much was clear in his debut. Although he doesn’t have the flashy tools of a future top-pair defender, there’s beauty in simplicity, and Harris shows a lot of it. Simple, short rim passes, timely breakouts with the puck, and the occasional rush activation made his first NHL game seem almost effortless. These are things that he’s been developing throughout his four years at Northeastern, and the prospect is just as impressive off the ice.
With his degree in Organizational Behavior (the study of human interactions in groups) and his pensive, considerate demeanor in his two media avails so far, Harris has shown that his leadership qualities and intelligence aren’t limited to the ice surface. I wouldn’t be surprised if, five years from now, there’s a letter on his jersey again.
His fantasy upside might not be worth a pick-up in shallow leagues, but expect Harris to be a mainstay on the Habs’ bottom-four heading into next season. 30 points a year on average is my prognosis.
Cole Caufield Earns NHL Rookie of the Month
At the expense of tooting my own horn, let me just quote my Ramblings from last February, just as Caufield was turning the corner under new coaching and management systems:
“Just pick him up. This kid has never not scored goals. It’s just what he does.”
Was I right, or was I right? Since then, the rookie has nine goals and eight assists for 17 points in 18 games, and earned the NHL Rookie of the Month award for his performances in March.
The scoring ability was always there. The real Cole was just hidden under four layers of confidence issues, which were exacerbated by playing the least minutes on the Habs and being benched every time he made a mistake. Martin St-Louis has embraced Caufield’s defensive shortcomings as a necessary evil, allowing him to just go out there, play his game, and be himself. You can see it clearly on the ice, but especially on the bench. He’s fired up, he’s loud, he’s vocal and most importantly, he’s got that signature grin on his face.
I’ve said it on a podcast before, but I still don’t think Caufield’s going to score 50 goals. I think he’ll hit 40 multiple times in his career, almost every year, but his tendency to always aim for the top shelf leads him to miss a couple of Grade A chances that he would bury easily by aiming under the goaltender’s arms, or between the wickets. That, plus the fact that his build prevents him from occupying the net-front or crashing there hard, is the 10-goal gap that I don’t see him bridging.
Things change, though, and this opinion might look ridiculous in a couple of years, but that’s what I see from him at the moment. Of his 34 points in 54 games so far this year, 26 have come since the coaching change, which was 24 games ago. He’s now a must-have in dynasty and keeper leagues.
Emil Heineman and Joshua Roy Sign Entry-Level Contracts
The Habs continued with their trend of locking down the prospects they feel have a shot at the NHL in the near future, as they signed both Emil Heineman and Joshua Roy to three-year, entry-level contracts.
Let’s start by breaking down Heineman’s game, and what he might be at the next level:
Strengths: Goal-scoring, physicality, skating
Heineman can score. He sits at 11 goals and five assists in 38 games in the SHL’s regular season, as a 20-year-old, and scored four goals in nine games at the Champions Hockey League tournament. His goal-scoring prowess comes from his raw power and accuracy, but he tends to struggle to find space in-between checks around the slot area. His physical game and intensity match well with a checking role, as the prospect can handle himself along the boards decently and has decent separation speed to get away from lower-tier defenders.
Weaknesses: Defensive game, playmaking, hockey sense
Heineman struggles in his own end, especially in terms of tracking plays and anticipating loose pucks. He can use his physical prowess to knock players off when he keeps up with them, but doesn’t stay ahead of the puck. His hockey sense in limited in many aspects, but that shows up specifically in his playmaking. He doesn’t play pucks into areas for teammates, and struggles with high-tempo reads and finding seams.
Upside: Bottom-six NHL goal-scorer (10-20 goals, 25-40 points)
In Joshua Roy’s case, the prognosis is a lot more positive:
Strengths: Hockey sense, dual-threat offense, two-way game
Roy has scored 38 goals and added 59 assists in only 57 games for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, leading the QMJHL in points with 97. He’s earned those points, and could very well have many more due to how refined of a play-driver he is. His hockey sense helps him identify weak spots in opposing coverage and sneak into them unnoticed, and he has the playmaking and goal-scoring abilities to execute within those pockets. So many of his habits are pro-ready — he attacks the middle, exposes his opponents’ heels, and does a great job of both opening up and taking away passing lanes in all three zones.
Weaknesses: Skating, physicality, work rate
Roy does tend to drag his feet at times, and there’s an intrinsic relationship between his work rate and his poor skating posture. His shin doesn’t angle forward ahead of his toes as much as it should, and there’s a short, almost limp-like element to his stride extensions. He also isn’t the biggest guy, which limits him in battles on occasions. That will likely continue to be a problem as he climbs the ranks, but he’s also very young and the main issues in his game are things that are fixable. Skating can be reworked, physicality can be built up, and the work rate should follow along with those two improvements.
Upside: top-six NHL scoring center/winger (20-30 goals, 60-70 points)
Thanks for reading — follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for all of your prospect-related needs!