MONTREAL - Kimball Union Academy head coach Tim Whitehead has been coaching hockey for a long time - around 30 years now - so he knows a good player when he sees one.
And that's exactly what he sees in Canadiens prospect Jordan Harris.
Harris, the Canadiens' third-round pick (71st overall) in June, played three seasons under Whitehead, and impressed his grizzled bench boss with what he brings not only on the ice, but off it, too.
"Jordan is an exceptional young man," praised Whitehead. "He's a very down-to-earth, humble, compassionate young man who happens to be an exceptional athlete as well."
So good of an athlete is Harris that he not only was the top player on the Wildcats' hockey squad, but on their lacrosse team as well.
"That was just picking up the lacrosse stick the last day of March and setting it down the first day of June every year," shared his (hockey) coach. "And he was still the best player on the team."
Whitehead noted that most players would want to take a break following a busy hockey season, but Harris decided to keep up with both sports despite the extra challenge that came with it.
"He and a couple of other guys would train either before or after lacrosse practice and then go to lacrosse. He did both," he explained. "That shows what type of person and athlete he is. He trains hard. He wasn't going to give that up, but yet he didn't want to leave his team in the lurch on the lacrosse field."
It should come as no surprise, then, that in addition to being a top-notch individual and athlete, Harris was also very successful in the report card department at Kimball Union.
"All the while, he's getting straight-A's in his classes. He's an honor student in every semester," added Whitehead of Harris, who at six goals and 29 assists in 37 games was nearly a point-per-game player in his final season with the Wildcats. "For all nine semesters he was here, he's a high-honors guy."
Whitehead was more than able to count on the 5-foot-11, 179-pound rearguard - who was named captain in 2017-18 - for his leadership abilities as well, pointing to his willingness to take young players under his wing and show the way by example.
"He's a great teammate and a great leader. He's a quiet guy in the room, but he exudes a lot of quiet confidence. The guys know they can count on him in key situations. He's such a calm competitor. He's a fierce competitor, but he's calm," Whitehead described of the Haverhill, MA native, who was named to the USHS All-USA Hockey First Team for his efforts in 2017-18. "He doesn't speak unless it's something important, and when it is, everybody is listening."
Of course, the ultimate reward for hard work and strong play is winning, and the Wildcats took home two New England Elite 8 championships during Harris' three-year stint with the school.
And yes, you guessed it: Harris played an instrumental part in helping Kimball Union go all the way.
"When the puck was dropped, everyone on our team knew that we could count on Jordan to log… I mean, he probably played half the game for us in those key games - in the playoffs, in our league championships, and of course the New England championships," recounted Whitehead. "He definitely had that calmness, that poise under pressure, the composure to make plays in key moments of the game.
"He's just such a consistently high-level player. It's not just flashes. He's such a clean player. So rarely did he turn it over. Pretty much an automatic breakout. And we're playing the top prep teams in the country, and he would never hit the panic button."
After Kimball Union, Harris is pursuing his hockey career at Northeastern University. When we caught up with the Wildcats coach in the offseason, he was convinced his protege would have no trouble adjusting to the game at the NCAA level.
"We're all very confident he's going to make a smooth transition. Mainly because his skating is so elite," relayed Whitehead of Harris, who scored his first goal in just his second game with the Huskies. "His ability to defend is fantastic.
"Northeastern is a great school. Just about every top program in the east was pursuing him," he concluded. "I think he made a great choice in Northeastern."