Montreal Canadiens: Alexander Romanov taking huge strides in the KHL

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Alexander Romanov meets a member of the Montreal Canadiens draft personnel after being selected 38th overall by the Montreal Canadiens during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Alexander Romanov meets a member of the Montreal Canadiens draft personnel after being selected 38th overall by the Montreal Canadiens during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The 2018 NHL Draft is looking even better for the Montreal Canadiens after Alexander Romanov made his KHL debut with CSKA Moscow.

Ever since June, the focus within the Montreal Canadiens has been centred around Jesperi Kotkaniemi (relatively speaking). He was the team’s highest pick since 2012 when Alex Galchenyuk was selected third-overall from the Sarnia Sting. However, there’s something different about Kotkaniemi in that he’s been showing clear signs of elite potential.

But what’s making the 2018 NHL Draft look better is how good the rest of the players selected have looked. In particular, the second round. The Habs took some by surprise when they took Alexander Romanov 38th overall considering a set of rankings had him going in the third and even the fourth round.

He also matched the archetype that Trevor Timmins seemed to be going for: skilled and speedy. That’s true for Romanov standing at five-foot-eleven and 185 pounds. But there’s a level of danger he provides from the blueline when he holds on to the puck and jumps up to join the rush with his fellow teammates.

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What makes the decision look even better is that he made CSKA Moscow’s roster for this season as an 18-year-old. The KHL isn’t shy to have teenagers play on their team’s but it’s still very impressive to see Romanov make the team, even if it’s as one of ten defencemen. He may not get the opportunity to play every single game, but getting out there at all amongst stronger players will be huge for his development.

Romanov made his debut with CSKA in Sunday’s season opener against Traktor. The 18-year-old was the seventh defencemen playing a total of 7:40 across 10 shifts. He didn’t hit any offensive milestones with a single shot on goal, but it’s only the beginning for the young defenceman.

This is going to be an interesting story to track for the year. For Romanov, he’ll be going from playing a big role in previous seasons on other teams to a more minuscule one. Ideally, he changes that quickly based on how he performs and improves as the year goes on to the point where the coaching staff in Moscow feel like he can handle the workload.

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With Romanov in the KHL, the Montreal Canadiens first four picks will be playing in a men’s league for the 2018-19 season. Many have already recognized how much the prospect pool has improved in a short amount of time and playing with CSKA will provide him with the stepping-stones to perhaps play in a Habs sweater one day.