Rafaël Harvey-Pinard did not hide it, his future is no longer with the Laval Rocket. After a season where he exceeded all expectations, his future belongs to the NHL, he judges.

“I think I played my last game with the Rocket,” he conceded during the Canadian’s school club’s end-of-season report, which came on Saturday, just hours after the team was eliminated. . “Training camp will be important because it will be up to me to prove that I deserve to have my place next year and to be full time in the NHL. »

The one who finished fourth among Habs scorers despite only playing 34 games will have a busy summer ahead of him. First, he intends to improve certain aspects of his game, in particular his skating. But above all, he will have to agree on the terms of a new contract, he who is a restricted free agent.

In the aftermath of the Laval team’s elimination in the playoffs, the 24-year-old winger looked back on this successful season on a personal level. He confessed that he could “be proud” of what he did and demonstrated that he could “play in the NHL and in the American League”.

We have to admit that is the case. The player with 20 points, including 14 goals, in 34 NHL games ranked fourth in the club in expected goals per 60 minutes. Only Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher and Cole Caufield have done better.

So if he is able to create as many chances next year, he will no longer make a detour at the end of the orange line.

As Eminem says in 8 Miles, you might only get one chance. If so, the 2022-2023 season will have been that for Harvey-Pinard.

“Without injuries, I probably don’t have a chance, but once there, you have to take it, that chance. There’s going to be a lot of competition next year with everyone healthy,” he said.

The injuries derailed the Canadiens’ original plan as several key wingers found themselves on the sidelines for a long time, including Caufield, Gallagher, Juraj Slafkovsky, Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia and Paul Byron. It was under these circumstances that Harvey-Pinard established himself as one of the club’s attacking leaders and forced the hand of the leaders.

Perhaps some were surprised at his success with the Canadiens, but not his captain at Laval, Gabriel Bourque: “He didn’t surprise me at all, because I know how he was last year. . »

The Saguenay native admitted to having “learned a lot” during the campaign. This is thanks in particular to numerous video sessions held with Martin St-Louis.

But after hitting the road to NHL glory, Harvey-Pinard was demoted in order to give the Rocket a boost in their run for the playoffs. Before returning to Laval, the Canadian coach simply told him that he was “proud of him”.

Finally, after six points in five games with the Laval team, he will be able to prepare for the most important moment of his career. A pivotal summer to determine his status within the organization. Or, as he said himself, to help the father at the family pizzeria in Arvida.

Cayden Primeau is done cutting his teeth in the American League, he says. “I’m ready for the next step,” he repeated several times during the end-of-season review.

“I’ve played enough games to make the jump,” he explained. I have to be constantly there. I felt comfortable at times, but I have to stay there for it to be really comfortable. »

If his performances have been mixed in the NHL, he believes that being established with the Canadiens will help him.

“It’s not easy to play in both leagues, because it’s not the same style of play. The teams and the guys are different. But I think one of the things I’ve improved the most this year is staying focused no matter what,” he said.

To turn heads in training camp next year, he plans to “get even stronger physically.”

What could end this yo-yo between the NHL and the AHL for Primeau is simply that the 23-year-old American will be eligible for waivers next year. Think twice before calling him back or demoting him.

Always so frank, Anthony Richard appeared in front of the media and left no room for interpretation. Anyone who will be an unrestricted free agent in a few months could change organizations if they wish.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been a free agent. But if I have the choice, I’ll come back here. I communicated my intentions to the organization this morning, so it will be up to my agent and Kent to work on this, because my position is clear,” he said.

If his goal this season was to show other clubs that the Rocket had made a good deal by signing him, next year he hopes to be able to carve out a job in the NHL. He took part in 13 meetings with the Habs, but a combination of circumstances harmed him.

“I kind of came from nowhere this year. I talked about it this morning [with Kent Hughes] that my recall could have come sooner. Maybe he was waiting to see if it was just a good streak or if I was consistent.

“I wasn’t really lucky on that side, because when I went up there weren’t too many injuries. Then when I came back down, they had about ten injuries and called up a lot of guys. It was when I was at the limit of being eligible for waivers, so it cost me about ten games in the NHL, I think. »

The next few months will tell if the strategy of laying the cards on the table has been the right one for Richard.