Leave a legacy.
That was a phrase that my high school baseball coach instilled in us my senior year, coming off a state championship. Leave a legacy that will be remembered by players and coaches long after you left. Leave the program in a better place as you leave than it was when you arrive. Leave behind a demonstration of how to carry yourself, how to perform, and how to represent your institution.
Jordan Harris is a man who left his legacy at Northeastern University.
Harris arrived in Fall 2018, coming to play collegiate hockey right out of prep school at Kimball Union Academy, a prestigious school and a hockey factory located in New Hampshire. He was coached by Tim Whitehead, formerly the head coach at Maine who brought the Black Bears to the brink of the national championship. Whitehead would repeatedly say during Harris’ senior year “he’s the best player on the ice.” Harris progressively improved in his three years at Kimball, eventually being named assistant captain his senior year.
Considered one of the top New England prospects in the 2018 NHL Draft, Harris was eventually selected by the Montreal Canadiens in third round, 71st overall. Considered a two-way, puck-moving defenseman, scouts raved about his game, especially his skating ability, which allowed him to transition out of his own zone, avoid opposing players looking to check him or dislodge the puck, set up offense, and still be in perfect position to recover and play defense.
When Harris arrived at Northeastern, head coach Jim Madigan said that Harris was immediately the best skater on the team, and that the expectation would be a heavy load of minutes right off the bat. In his first college hockey game, he was placed on the top pairing with Jeremy Davies, another dynamic puck-moving defenseman who would go on to be named All-American and play in the NHL. However Davies is also a left-handed shot, so Harris was put on the right side of the pair. So to recap: a true freshman, making the leap to college hockey out of high school, who has the pressure of being a high draft pick by Montreal, praised as a top player on the team right from the onset, and he’s asked to play on his off-hand to start his career on the top pairing.
If Jordan Harris was ever nervous, it never showed.
Dynamic, fluid, and a calming, reliable performer from the start of his career, Harris proved he was more than ready for the challenges of college hockey. Harris scored his first career goal in his second career game against Sacred Heart, putting up 13 points as a freshman in 39 games. He was a key contributor in the Huskies’ 2019 Beanpot victory over Boston College, notching an assist in the Beanpot final. His production would grow as a sophomore, scoring 21 points in 33 games, however his biggest goal would be one that wouldn’t count in the scorebooks, netting the double-overtime winner in the 2020 Beanpot final to defeat Boston University and give Northeastern its third Beanpot championship in a row for the first time in program history.
Harris was named to the United States National Junior Team for the 2020 World Junior Championships and won Northeastern’s Unsung Hero Award in 2020, but the end of his collegiate season would be cut short by start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, Harris had started to make an impression. People started to buzz about what he would look like as a professional hockey player in the Montreal system. Harris would return for his junior season, one unlike anything he or any other player had experienced to date. Due to pandemic restrictions there were no fans, was no Beanpot, was no non-conference games- and yet Harris proved his mettle through it all.
Named assistant captain prior to the season, Harris would put up 19 points in 19 games, third-best on the team and third-best by a defenseman in Hockey East. He tied Zach Solow for the team lead in assists, started to show his presence as a scorer on the powerplay, continued his defensive excellence by cutting his penalty minutes by over half, and for his efforts was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award as well as being a semi-finalist for the Walter Brown Award.
In the last five-to-ten years, we’ve seen most top-100 picks in the draft sign their entry-level contract by the end of the third year after they were drafted. Montreal put the pressure on Harris to entice him to leave Northeastern a year early, foregoing his senior season to play professional hockey. Habs fans clamored for see Harris’ smooth skating in either the Bell Centre at the NHL level or in Laval at the AHL level. But Harris, who since Draft Day had held steadfast to his conviction that he wanted to finish his degree, spurned their advances as returned to Northeastern for one final run. He would be named captain of the team in the offseason, and expectations were sky-high as they returned one of the best players in Hockey East for his last run at glory. Montreal would have to wait.
Harris put in arguably his best body of work as a senior in his farewell tour. Entrenched as the catalyst for the Huskies’ offense and defense, Harris took to the captain role as a natural. Leading by example as he had for three years, he put up 20 points in 39 games, not missing a single contest. As the leader of the Huskies’ defensive corps, he helped oversee the team’s best performance in goals-against in team history, working with a committed forward group and goaltender Devon Levi to play smart, positional, and preventative defense, allowing Levi to make clean save after clean save, and clearing pucks from high-danger areas that would have threatened to score.
He led the Huskies to their first-ever Hockey East regular season title, and back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019. He would be nominated again as a Hobey Baker Award candidate, win the Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman Award, and be named both a Hockey East First Team All Star and a Second Team All-American. In his final act, his defense held the potent Western Michigan offense, previously best in the nation, to one of their lowest outputs of the year. In the end though, that Western Michigan game would write the final chapter of Jordan Harris’ collegiate career.
Harris would soon sign his entry-level contract with Montreal, fulfilling his promise and intent to sign with the team that drafted him four years ago. The signing was met with incredible fanfare in America and in Canada, as fan bases from Boston to Quebec were eager to see him don the famous bleu-blanc-rouge. After taking some time to acclimate to the speed and physicality of the NHL in practice, Harris made his NHL debut against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning on April 2nd. On his first shift, he would defend a rush against the combination of Steven Stamkos, Braden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. Immediately thrown in the fire against the champions, facing their top line, in your debut, the pressure was on.
Just like when he was a freshman: if Jordan Harris was ever nervous, it never showed.
Harris made himself hundreds of new fans with his play, dazzling first-time viewers with his skating, with his willingness to jump in on the rush, and most of all, his poise with and without the puck. Longtime viewers of Northeastern know that’s just Jordan: unflappable in the face of adversity, calm and collected when the intensity mounts, and a performer who shines under pressure like the brightest diamond. From Northeastern fans to Montreal fans: you truly have no idea what a special player this kid has become in four years at Northeastern, and how much Montreal is going to benefit from it.
As of this writing Harris has played three games in the NHL, and has looked like an NHLer in every single one. We’ve seen projections already pencilling him into the Canadien starting lineup next season, fans dreaming of the stabilizing presence of Jordan Harris breaking pucks out of the zone to the likes of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki for years to come. Harris has not been shy about pushing the puck towards the net on his own either, generating chances every game so far that Montreal has yet to capitalize on. The time will come, of course. But rest assured- once it comes, it will happen more and again for years to come at the NHL level.
Jordan Harris has arrived in the NHL, and he leaves behind a legacy at Northeastern that will be remembered for years. Returning to TD Garden as a homecoming, but for the first time venturing into enemy territory while he plays for Montreal, will yield stories of his overtime thriller against BU, his days prowling the blue line at Matthews Arena, and the success he helped oversee for four years with the Huskies. In his four seasons, Harris helped raise the ever-growing standard at his school- compete for and win championships; compete on the national stage; develop towards your goal of making the next level; and most importantly, continue to grow the program so that you leave it in a better place than your found it.
Kimball Union Academy is in a better place now because Jordan Harris chose to attend it, leaving success in his wake as he moved to the college level. Northeastern University is a better place now, both as a school and as a hockey program, because Jordan Harris chose to attend it. Jordan Harris is a man who leaves a legacy of success wherever he goes. Montreal, now it’s your turn.