If there’s one player in the Canadiens locker room who knows what Sean Farrell is about to experience, it’s Jordan Harris.

Last season, Harris also made the leap from the university ranks to the NHL, at the end of the season, without training camp or preseason games of this caliber. That’s roughly the equivalent of teaching your 5-year-old to swim in the 12-footer at the neighborhood pool, without floats (Editor’s note: don’t do that).

To add a degree of difficulty, Harris had played his first game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, then two-time defending champion and future Stanley Cup finalist. As if that weren’t enough, that game on April 2, 2022 was taking place in Tampa.

Harris did well, finishing the game with a 1, and Martin St-Louis managed to protect him by pitting him mainly against the Lightning’s fourth line. But there was a Corey Perry in that line, a guy who, while not the Hart Trophy winner he was 12 years ago, is still able to do a thing or two with a hockey stick.

That’s what struck Harris: the difference between a fourth line in the NCAA and a fourth line in the NHL.

“A fourth line in the National League, these are players who were All-Americans (the equivalent of all-star teams) in college, who were the best in the OHL (Ontario Junior League). There is so much talent.

“It’s the number of plays made in a game and the depth of the formations. From the first to the fourth line, everyone can score, pass, shoot. You come in and you say, OK, everything works here. »

It’s been talked about for so long, it’s finally settled: Farrell has agreed with the Canadiens and should finish the season with the team.

On Sunday morning, the Habs announced a three-year deal, starting this season, with an average annual value of $1.158 million. Farrell will complete the first year of the deal this spring, which will expire in 2025.

The 21-year-old winger, a 2020 4th-round pick who has been exceeding expectations so far, will join his new teammates in Buffalo, where the team will face the Sabers on Monday. The date of his first match remains unknown, but after the convincing victory on Saturday, it would be surprising if he played on Monday.

“He will be in our environment, will see how things are going, the calendar, the daily life of a team, he will know the staff”, detailed St-Louis, after the optional training on Sunday of the CH, at Brossard.

It’s a time of year when the stages jostle for college players. For comparison, Harris was eliminated on March 25, 2022. The next day, he signed his contract with the Habs and a week later, he laced up his skates in the big league.

Harris especially remembers a friend who texted him to say he was “in his place”. “He told me to keep my confidence, says CH number 54. The step is high, but everyone makes the jump sooner or later. Everyone is nervous for their first game. Players at this level are indeed very good, but they should not be given too much respect either.

“There’s a reason why Sean is joining us: he’s a really good player. I’ll tell him to enjoy it. You will not be perfect in your first game, you will make mistakes. Martin had told me that, and it had helped me a lot to calm down. »

Farrell is coming off an impressive season at Harvard University, where he scored 53 points in 34 games. His average of 1.56 points per game was second in the entire NCAA, behind upcoming draft hopeful Adam Fantilli.

In the standings, last year’s CH that hosted Harris was in a similar position to this spring that awaits Farrell: far. Last year, Montreal came in 32nd and last place on April 2 in the morning. This year, the club are ranked 28th, and their official elimination from the playoff race will be confirmed any day.

Except that in the eyes of St-Louis, the environment of the team has changed greatly in one year.

“We’re further along in our progression, more organized. The group knows how things are done, so it will be easier to integrate a young person. He shouldn’t take too big bites. He has to savor the moment, not try to be perfect and just play. »

Mats Näslund attended Saturday’s game, and St. Louis got his picture with the once-nicknamed “Little Viking.” The photo was obviously special for St-Louis, who wore the 26 in particular as a tribute to Näslund. It wasn’t their first meeting either. “I met him, I think it was at Sports Rousseau in Laval on Curé-Labelle. He and Kjell Dahlin were signing autographs, my dad had brought me and I have a picture of me in between. Mats was my idol. I am glad to have met him in a different context. He’s a big reason I’m here today, because he inspired me. »

Twelve players laced up the skates for optional team practice before leaving for Buffalo. Among them was the hero of Saturday’s match, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, author of a hat trick. Amply solicited in the post-game interviews on Saturday, the Saguenéen was back in front of the microphones this Sunday noon. “It was an emotional evening. To calm myself down, to come down from the cloud, it felt good to get on the ice, to shoot at the net. I like it to get on board between games, so as not to spend a whole day without doing anything. »

Finally, Joel Armia practiced alone on the ice rink. The big right winger has not played since February 21 due to a respiratory infection. The date of his return to the game remains unknown.