Montreal Canadiens: Top 5 Training Camp Battles To Watch

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Paul Byron Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Paul Byron Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Ben Chiarot Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Ben Chiarot Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Position: First Pairing Left Defence

Candidates: Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Alexander Romanov

The Incumbent: Ben Chiarot stepped into the Habs lineup after signing a three-year contract with a $3.5 million cap hit and played far more and far better than anyone predicted. The most common comparison when he joined the Habs was to Karl Alzner. Those comparisons couldn’t have been further from reality.

Chiarot would end up playing 23:08 per game in the regular season, which ranked 30th in the entire league. It still put him third on the Habs behind Shea Weber and Jeff Petry but I don’t think anyone expected to see the 6’3″ and 218 pound defender taking on that much of a load.

He also set career highs with nine goals and 21 points, so he certainly is the favourite to play next to Weber once again.

The Challenger: Joel Edmundson was a big priority for Marc Bergevin when the offseason began. On September 12, about a month before he was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, Bergevin traded a 5th round pick for Edmundson’s negotiating rights. Four days later he signed him to a four-year contract with a $3.5 million cap hit.

You don’t target a player like that unless you have high hopes for him. The Habs are probably expecting him to play on the second pairing with Jeff Petry, but a really good training camp could see him earn the top pairing role with Weber.

The Dark Horse: Alexander Romanov was a second round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2018 but Bergevin talks about the Russian like it is his only child. Romanov has played a couple of seasons in the KHL so he should be ready to step into the NHL. He was terrific at each of the past two World Juniors, and will play a lot of games in the top four for the Habs in the future.

I don’t think he is ready for that yet, but there is a small chance he looks excellent in camp and is given a huge role right from day one.