Narrowing things down
Cuts were made on Tuesday evening as the Canadiens finalized their training camp rosterby Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
BROSSARD - Twelve players were released from the Canadiens' annual Rookie Camp on Tuesday, including Rafael Harvey-Pinard.
Despite a strong showing during the Rookie Showcase over the weekend and a notable performance against the Quebec University All-Stars, the 20-year-old left-winger was returned to the Junior ranks where he'll captain the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens this season.
While the Jonquiere, QC native ultimately wasn't among the 57 players invited to the Canadiens' main training camp, he departs feeling rather good about his play in front of both the Canadiens and Laval Rocket brass.
"I worked hard. I stayed within my identity. I think I played well, and my linemates helped me all weekend long," said Harvey-Pinard, who played alongside top prospects Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki while the squad competed in Belleville, ON against hopefuls from the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets. "I had some really good chances with a lot of excellent players. I think I made the most of the opportunities I was given. I have to keep on going just like that."
For Harvey-Pinard, his week-long stint with the best and brightest youngsters in the Canadiens' organization was an opportunity to also prove to himself that his game was inching closer and closer to being pro-ready.
And there were clear indications that he's trending in the right direction.
"It's reassuring. You get an idea that you can play with players of this caliber. It pushes me to continue," said Harvey-Pinard, who captained the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to QMJHL and Memorial Cup titles this past year. "My consistency, my intensity and my work ethic are my biggest strengths. I think I improved my skating and it showed on the ice. I think I'm ready to move on to the next level."
But another campaign in the Junior ranks certainly won't hurt his cause.
Rocket bench boss Joel Bouchard believes Harvey-Pinard's potential is incredibly high, and he's pleased that the Canadiens plucked him from the crowd at the NHL Draft in the seventh round, 201st overall in June.
"He's a good player. You've got to tip your cap to Marc [Bergevin], who went and got a draft pick to draft a player because we liked him. He's done well at camp. No doubt about it. Now, he's in the bank for us. That's great news," explained Bouchard. "He definitely lived his business card. I give him praise right now. And if things are going well, he'll know too. That's the way I am. I tell the truth to the players. He did well. He's a young player that's been coming. I've known him for a long time. From 15, 16 years old, he's come a long way."
Harvey-Pinard's numbers in 2018-19 suggest he'll be a force to be reckoned with in Chicoutimi. He torched the opposition to the tune of 40 goals and 85 points in 66 regular-season contests, before adding 13 goals and 27 points in 20 postseason contests en route to winning the President's Cup.
His resolve to prove his worth as a seventh-round pick - coupled with the confidence he gained at Rookie Camp - should make him an ever more significant offensive threat going forward.
"At the end of the day, I told myself that I just have to work twice as hard and I came back stronger," mentioned Harvey-Pinard, on his feelings about going late in the NHL Draft. "I'm here today because I really gave a lot."
Bouchard acknowledged that during his postgame press conference, of course.
He also noted that being cut isn't the end of the world for any youngster, especially one with a bright future like Harvey-Pinard.
"Like I told them time and again, this is just the beginning. They're young hockey players that want to be pros. It's going to be tough. There are times when they're going to go back to their Junior teams and there are times when they're going to need to go somewhere else and find their own game within pro hockey. I think those are good eye-openers. There's no university of hockey. You can't sit on a bench and pretend you're going to learn hockey. You need to be out there in those kinds of tournaments," explained Bouchard. "It's still good mileage. There's nothing wrong with failing. We want everyone to succeed. But in your life you have to fail to succeed. I thought they did well because they tried their best."
Thumbs up, Alexandre!
For his part, centerman Alexandre Alain will be among the 33 forwards vying for a roster spot with the big club when training camp opens Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex.
The 22-year-old Quebec City native is heading into his second pro campaign after registering eight goals and 28 points in 72 appearances with Laval last year.
Alain spent his offseason grinding away in the gym in hopes of making a strong impression at Rookie Camp this time around, and it appears that the effort paid off.
"I worked hard on my explosion. I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied. You can't be satisfied with anything. I'm happy with the progress I made in camp, but there's a lot left I want to show during main camp," affirmed Alain, who is determined to shine in the coming days on the South Shore. "It'll be up to me to earn my spot and show what I can do."
Admittedly, Bouchard took notice of Alain's enhancements in the skating department.
He was ecstatic to see that Alain was among several of his charges in Laval who accomplished the summer objectives he outlined for them.
"I challenged Alexandre on his skating. I waited for a while to confirm it, and I find that his skating improved this summer. I think our Rocket players came to training camp in extraordinary shape," praised Bouchard. "I know I'm tough with them, and they know it. Michael Pezzetta, Hayden Verbeek, Cale Fleury, Jake Evans, Alexandre Alain, they did their homework and arrived with the standards I was looking for. That doesn't guarantee they'll be NHL players - and it doesn't mean you'll have an extraordinary year - but they did their homework."
Carey Price and Keith Kinkaid suited up for a 30-minute workout with goaltending coach Stephane Waite on Tuesday.
While Price didn't take part in the informal group practice shortly thereafter, Kinkaid was back in between the pipes with the start of training camp on the horizon.
Click here to see a list of participants in the on-ice session.