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Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors: Suzuki, Romanov, NHL Draft, Tatar & Julien

Although the NHL’s regular season is on a hiatus with the societal lockdown in response to the COVID-19 response, that doesn’t mean there’s no news from the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. In this post, I want to help Canadiens’ fans stay up-to-date with items from the team.

Item One: Nick Suzuki Has Had an Impressive Rookie Season

One person who’s rightly impressed with young Nick Suzuki’s rookie season was Canadiens head coach Claude Julien. So, what’s Julien like? That’s easy – Suzuki’s intelligence.

As Julien calls it, “He comes to us, plays it the right way, understands the game so well. You know, you talk about an intelligent player and he’s one of those guys where, you tell him once and you don’t have to tell him two or three times — he gets it. So, I like that about him.”

Suzuki had scored 13 goals and 41 points in 71 games prior to the suspension of the 2019-20 NHL season. Although he had an eight-game scoreless drought prior to the NHL hiatus, Julien blames that not so much on issues with Suzuki’s offense but on the fatigue of a long season. It can take a young player time to get used the daily grind of a full season of play.

Related: Montreal Canadiens’ Henri Richard: A Tribute to the Pocket Rocket

Item Two: Alexander Romanov Will Sign with the Canadiens, But When?

Rumors have it that Alexander Romanov is ready to sign on the dotted line with the Canadiens, but no one is quite clear if his contract would begin next season or if he’d be allowed to play if the 2019-20 season ever resumes. Apparently, the NHL is only allowing teams to sign players to contracts that begin next season, but no one’s clear what happens if the season starts up again after July. Can teams sign new players for the end of this season?

Romanov’s – and the player agent for all other Russian players it seems – Dan Milstein shared the rumor that “the GMs are in favor of having some kind of a regular season, and then as many as 24 teams would possibly make the playoffs.” And, as he noted, “If I was Montreal, I’d probably be calling Romanov for this year.”

Milstein added, “I haven’t discussed it with Montreal, but I will when the time comes.”

Obviously Milstein is advantaged if his client signs a contract sooner rather than later. But, as he puts it: “It’s just, right now, I’d rather he plays this year. Why sit out and wait until October? He’s definitely coming. He’s coming to be an NHL player, and so it’s just a matter of when.”

If Romanov does sign a contract with the Canadiens, it won’t likely be announced until a decision is made about the remainder of the 2019-20 season.  

Item Three: Regular Season or Not: There Will Be an NHL Entry Draft

With no one really certain about NHL start-up times, the Canadiens know that – one day or another – there’ll be a 2020 NHL Entry Draft. And, assistant general manager Trevor Timmins is working to prepare his team for that event.

What we know is that the 2020 Draft was delayed and hasn’t yet been rescheduled. The Draft is also complicated – and it’s always a crapshoot at the best of times – because global hockey is either paused or canceled in response to the coronavirus so it’s tough to scout young players. Even given these complications, NHL teams have a process they use to prepare.

And, as Timmins notes, “We have a structured process that we apply to every draft and this hasn’t changed. I have our scouting staff adhering to the process, which works toward developing our organizational draft board. With no draft date in sight, there’s no endpoint for us to work toward. I’ve kept our staff very busy, somewhat like a university professor, with assignments that have a due date.” (from “Canadiens preparing for any draft scenario, assistant GM Timmins says, Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 09/04/20)

Related: Montreal Canadiens Interested in Corey Crawford?

Item Four: Tomas Tatar’s Shoulder Injury Could Be Ready

One bright spot if the 2019-20 NHL season ever returns is that a number of players would be ready to return to action. And the Canadiens’ Tomas Tatar is one of them. He’s been out with a shoulder injury since March 3 and it seemed he wouldn’t be able to come back at all this season. However, no one counted on the season being suspended.

Tatar was one of the Canadiens’ core players and when he went down with an injury it hurt the team. It would be an advantage if he were able to come back, the season resumed, and there were battles for playoff positions. There are whispered rumors that a large number of teams might make a postseason playoff scenario. If so, that bodes well for the Canadiens.

Tatar leads the team with 22 goals, 39 assists, and 61 points in 68 games. The team needs him. (from “’I want to be ready,’ Canadiens coach Julien says if NHL season resumes, Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 08/04/20)

What’s Next for the Canadiens?

In a recent conference call, Coach Julien noted that he’s staying ready to go if the 2019-20 season resumes. However, he doesn’t want to continue if there’s any risk involved for sickness. He simply wants to be ready to go.

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