The adage ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ seemingly applies to Montreal Canadiens rookie Alexander Romanov. There was no shortage of compliments and praise from Canadiens players or staff prior to this season. After Wednesday’s performance in his NHL debut, it’s not hard to understand why.
I distinctly recall assistant coach Luke Richardson raving about the youngster back in December of 2020. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens showed it wasn’t just all talk as he got key minutes, at key times in the Habs top-four.
On paper, there is not a whole lot that stands out about the 21-year-old left-handed defenseman. He was the Canadiens 3rd pick (38th overall) during the second round of the 2018 NHL draft. So too, his stature is rather unassuming at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. That said, since being drafted he has continuously gotten better.
Big Expectations for Romanov
His play during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 World Junior Championships provided an early indicator that he was projecting into an NHL caliber player. He was able to maintain a point per game pace (2 goals, 12 assists in 14 games) over two WJC tournaments. In doing so, he proved to be an apt offensive defenseman at the highest level of competition and against his peers.
Several experts thought that the Moscow native would eventually develop into a top four role at some point this season. Against the Maple Leafs, perhaps he’s already at that point. With one assist and over 22 minutes of time on ice, it might be safe to say he’s been given the role in the top four and it’s simply his to lose. Romanov looked like a crafty NHL veteran on an up the gut, long bomb feed to spring Tomas Tatar on a breakaway for the Habs 3rd goal – a power play tally.
As the game was winding down and the score was 4-4, coach Claude Julien had Romanov on the ice in the final minutes of the game. The rookie handled the pressure-cooker of a situation with ease, never once looking like he in the wrong place at the wrong time.
New Age Defender
Romanov is a new age defender. Skilled, mobile, but so intelligent. For example, he lists himself as a right defense even though he is a left shot. In my experience, this is usually a good indication of a player with tremendous skill and thinks the game at a high level. The Finns have long made this off-hand revision to their brightest and most talented defenders. Easy example – the Dallas Stars Miro Heiskanen – left shot, right defence.
The organization and fans should be pumped about young Romanov and his future in Montreal.
Habs Nation should also be excited about the Montreal debut of Josh Anderson. The offseason acquisition, in exchange for fan favorite Max Domi, was a force and collected two goals in the process.
While the Canadiens didn’t walk away with the win and earned only a single point, Anderson stood out and doesn’t look like he’s suffered any ill affects from an injury that kept him out most of last season.
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