Montreal Canadiens: Alexander Romanov Impresses In NHL Debut

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexander Romanov looked great last night.

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Alexander Romanov had to jump through a few hoops for the NHL last summer. He was deemed ineligible to play in the postseason, but was allowed to sign his entry-level contract.

That resulted in him practicing with the team in the bubble in Toronto in July and August, but he wasn’t allowed to play any games.

It was an odd situation, and it left many fans wondering why the Canadiens would bother wasting the first year of his contract just to practice with the team for a few weeks.

Well, he finally made his NHL debut last night and it was fairly evident why the team would do whatever it took to get him signed. Romanov played the past two seasons in the KHL with CSKA Moscow, a stacked team that won the Gagarin Cup in 2019 and was a contender again in 2020 before the season was shut down. Not many teenaged defencemen play full-time in the KHL, but Romanov played two full seasons in the world’s second best league, preparing him for the NHL stage.

Still, no matter how much seasoning a player has before making his NHL debut, there are never guarantees a 20 year old defenceman is ready to step into an NHL lineup.

That question was answered pretty quickly for Romanov last night.

The Russian blue liner made a few crisp breakout passes early in the first period, and lowered the boom on Justin Holl at the blue line. He actually led the team in ice time in the opening period, playing over eight minutes, which is more than plenty of rookie defencemen have received in their whole first game.

He was quarterbacking the Habs second unit of the power play as well, making a few nail-biting plays along the blue line to keep pucks alive and allow the Habs to continue to pressure the Leafs.

Romanov looked especially calm and poised when he set Tomas Tatar up for a breakaway goal early in the second period to give the Habs a 3-1 lead.

Romanov continued to take a regular shift at even strength with Brett Kulak on the third pairing, and was on the team’s penalty killing unit as well. By the end of the second frame, Romanov was third on the team in ice time, behind only Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot who make up the team’s top defence pairing.

Throughout the third period, Romanov was taking a few shifts on the second period with Jeff Petry. This was especially impressive considering the game was tied for much of the third period and playing with Petry meant playing against Auston Matthew and Mitch Marner, or John Tavares and William Nylander.

By the end of regulation, the rookie has passed Chiarot in ice time with 21:49, was second on the team behind only Weber. Romanov got another shift in overtime, and finished the night with 22:49 in his NHL debut.

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The Canadiens ultimately lost a close battle 5-4 in overtime. But realizing how good Romanov is feels like a big win for the team.