Montreal Canadiens: A Look At Former Habs Playing In The KHL

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 22: Laval Rocket (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 22: Laval Rocket (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 22: Laval Rocket (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 22: Laval Rocket (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Vasili Demchenko and Eddie Pasquale

I’m throwing these two players in at the end here as an anecdote of sorts, as technically they never played for the Canadiens, not in an NHL regular-season game at least.

However, at least in my opinion, their brief tenures with the Habs organization are notable nonetheless, made even more so by the superb performances these two have shown as starting goaltenders overseas.

Demchenko is a long-time KHL starter who started his career as a 1B option for Cheyabinsk Traktor over five and a half seasons. After the abrupt end to pro sports in 2019-20 as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Demchenko opted to try his hand in North America, inking a one-year entry level deal with the Canadiens.

Unfortunately, the AHL, and to an extent, the NHL, were a complete mess roster wise as a result of the Pandemic in 2020-21, with the advent of the Taxi Squad meaning there were few, if any players who spent the entirety of the season in the AHL.

With Jake Allen and (for a brief period) Carey Price running the show in net for the Canadiens in the regular season, Laval had an influx of keepers which meant Demchenko got lost in the mix. While he posted a solid 2.25 GAA and .905 SVP over 4 games, Demchenko couldn’t find ice time as Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven saw the majority of reps.

In the next off-season, Demchenko opted to head back to Russia, playing a career high 55 games in the 2022-23 season for Omsk Avangard (where he currently plays) emerging as one of the top goalies in the KHL. Had it not been for the Pandemic, I think Demchenko could’ve been a star in Laval and a player who might’ve gotten an NHL game or two in Montreal or elsewhere.

Pasquale was a long-time starter for the Winnipeg Jets affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, and former fourth-round pick of the Thrashers, when he joined the Canadiens organization off an AHL deal with those very same IceCaps for the 2015-16 season.

While he had been a model of consistency over his first three seasons in St. John’s, he had little if any NHL interest, having dealt with some injuries, and started the season with the ECHL’s Brampton Beast. However, as expected starter Zach Fucale struggled to adapt to the pro game in his first season, Pasquale was given another chance and played incredibly solid once more, posting a 13-10 record, 2.62 GAA, and .919 SVP (insane given the team in front of him) as St. John’s was in the thick of a playoff hunt for most of the season.

This performance ultimately saved Pasquale’s career, as he was able to secure NHL contracts once more, becoming a solid starter for Grand Rapids and Syracuse, earning his long-awaited cup of coffee in the NHL, playing 3 games for the Lightning in 2018-19.

Since then, Pasquale has gone from being a decent starter in the AHL to one of the best keepers in the KHL the past few seasons, posting back-to-back campaigns with a GAA under 2.00. Having bounced around with three different teams, Pasquale is currently playing for Nur-Sultan Barys, and even played for Team Canada in the 2022 Olympics.

Having been one of my personal favorite players growing up, Pasquale didn’t have a bad turnaround for a guy who once looked like a long-shot to make it back to the AHL, let alone the NHL or the KHL.

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