Montreal Canadiens: Alexander Romanov Given Chance to Step Into Prominent Role

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Alexander Romanov. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens Alexander Romanov will be stepping right into the Habs lineup.

Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov took a circuitous route to officially become a member of the Habs, but he looks like he will step right into the lineup.

The Russian defenceman was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He played the following two seasons in the KHL, and look stellar at a pair of World Junior Championships for Russia, winning a Top Defenceman Award in 2019.

This past summer, as the NHL was gearing up for its return to play in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, they stumbled and bumbled their way through the signing of players from Russia.

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Initially, it was thought a player like Romanov could sign his entry-level contract and join the team like anyone else. Why not? His contract in Russia was expired and he was not playing anywhere else. He was drafted by the Habs and on their reserves list all season long so he wasn’t a free agent signing.

But then it was decided these players were not eligible to sign and play in the bubble. Then it was agreed that they could sign but couldn’t join their team. Then they chose to allow him to sign a contract, join the team in practice, but not play games.

It made no sense, but it was the rule so that’s what Romanov did. He finally signed his entry-level contract on July 13, and though he wasn’t allowed to play in the postseason, he burned off the first year of his deal. That means he will be a cap hit of $894,000 for the next two seasons.

Though he is a 20 year old rookie who hasn’t played a pro game outside of Russia, he is being given an opportunity to steal a roster spot away from a regular from last season.

When the Canadiens hit the ice for the first time on Tuesday, it was Romanov on the third pairing with Brett Kulak. This pushed Victor Mete who played 51 of the Habs 70 games last season and Cale Fleury who played 41 NHL games, outside the top six.

Canadiens management has not been shy to praise Romanov every chance they’ve had over the past two years. General Manager Marc Bergevin went so far as to say drafting Romanov is one of the decisions he is most proud of during his tenure as the team’s GM.

Leapfrogging Mete and Fleury for a spot in the top six is one thing, but Romanov was given some prominent special teams time as well. When the Canadiens practiced their power play, it was Romanov on the point of the second wave of the power play. He was the quarterback on a unit that included Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and had Josh Anderson in front of the net.

A lot of times rookies need to wait their turn or really prove themselves in training camp before moving into the team’s top six. That is especially true when a team has six regular NHL blue liners returning and another young player who played 41 games in the NHL the year before.

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However, it was interesting to see Romanov not only skating with Kulak, but also taking reps on the second power play unit. Not often does a rookie have such a prominent role on the first day of training camp, but it looks like Romanov is going to be a big part of the 2021 Montreal Canadiens season.