The Montreal Canadiens’ rookie defenseman Alexander Romanov isn’t a typical rookie. The 21-year-old left-shot defenseman was drafted 38th overall during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft; however, if that draft were to happen again, he’d probably be a top-10 draft pick. After his time in the KHL, Romanov became one of the top prospects not playing in the NHL.
The highly-regarded Romanov had attended Montreal’s Return-to-Play training-camp bubble during the 2019-20 postseason, but was not allowed by the NHL to play in games. However, he did practice with the team.
Romanov Is Excited to Play in the NHL
During an interview with the Russian website metaratings.ru., the charismatic and exciting young Romanov admitted during the NHL’s bubble:
“I have already got excited 150 times. I am waiting and waiting for the start of my debut season in the NHL. I’ve been out of the game for eight months. It’s very hard. There is no practice at all. But I believe that in this situation it is necessary to get out and make every effort so that (my nerves are) not noticeable. The main thing is that this does not affect the game. I trained a lot. I hope it’s okay.” (from “Canadiens’ blue-line prospect Romanov eager to begin NHL career, Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 07/12/20).
Romanov Was Expected to Stick with the Canadiens, and He Did
An article in the Montreal Gazette earlier this week noted that, after playing the last two seasons in the KHL, Romanov had come to Canada ready to play and had been impressive at training camp. As a result, he was expected to make the Canadiens’ roster this season. He did.
Prior to his first game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canadiens’ head coach Claude Julien said about Romanov, “Well, I think you have to expect that a young player in his first year in the league at some point is going to make mistakes. But what you like about him and the difference between him and Kotkaniemi is he’s a lot older than when Kotkaniemi started. Kotkaniemi was 18, this guy is (21) years old, and he’s played in the KHL so he’s got some good experience at the pro level.”
Julien added, “He’s (Romanov) very confident. He’s going to make mistakes like everybody else, but he seems to be really gung-ho on fixing his mistakes as soon he makes one.” (from “Canadiens Notebook: No progress on a new contract for Phillip Danault,” Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette, 10/01/21).
Romanov Looked Strong During His First Game of the Season
Romanov looked great during his NHL debut on Wednesday. He scored an assist, had three shots on the net, and blocked four shots during the Canadiens’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. More impressive was that, although the game was almost one of constant offense, Romanov wasn’t on the ice when the Maple Leafs scored. Paired with the veteran defenseman Shea Weber, Romanov saw plenty of ice time (logging 21:14 minutes).
In fact, the entire Canadiens’ team looked much improved. Romanov was way better than expected. The Suzuki-Anderson-Drouin line looked strong all night long. Finally, Danault was strong in the faceoff circle. (from “Encouraging signs from Canadiens in season opener, Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 14/01/21).
Excited to Face Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Edmonton Oilers
In a Sportsnet video from late yesterday, Romanov admitted he had been excited to play the first game of his NHL career against the Maple Leafs. However, now that the game is behind him, he’s really looking forward to the challenge he’ll face when he goes against two of the greatest players of the game – the Oilers’ Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in his second game of the season.
As Romanov Says, It’s the NHL in Real Life
When asked how he had felt before his NHL debut, he admitted he was more excited than nervous; however, he was “a little bit nervous” because, as viewers can hear him describe, it was “my first game game” in “the NHL in real life.”
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Asked how he felt about the challenge of facing McDavid and Draisaitl, Romanov noted that it was a really good challenge and “I’m so excited to play against them.”