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Alexander Romanov said he wants to play in the NHL this season if permitted after the defenseman agreed to terms on a three-year, entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The start of Romanov’s contract has not been determined.
“It’s my dream to play in the NHL. It’s my dream to play in Montreal,” Romanov said from Moscow. “It’s my favorite dream. I’m so excited. I’m so happy to come to Montreal and to come to Canada. I’m so happy.”
Selected by Montreal in the second round (No. 38) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Romanov had seven assists in 43 games with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League this season. The 20-year-old scored 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 86 KHL games over two seasons and won the Gagarin Cup in 2018-19.
The Canadiens (31-31-9) trail the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets by 10 points for the wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Romanov said he is staying in shape in case the NHL season resumes, although it’s unknown if his contract would begin this season or next.
“The plan is, Montreal is purchasing Alexander a one-way ticket, and he’s coming to Montreal for good,” said Romanov’s agent, Dan Milstein, who served as his translator. “He’s ready to come here on a one-way ticket to work hard and prove to everybody that he’s worthy of an opportunity, and that he’s an NHL player.
“He feels good and he feels in shape, and as soon as the borders are open and he’s allowed to come, he’s looking forward to joining the team right away. He has a big gym and he has a net outside, so he basically shoots the puck all day and works out in the gym. He’s got the weights, and the program was given to him by the Montreal Canadiens’ athletic trainers, so he follows the protocol that was set in place by the Montreal personnel.”
Romanov was named the top defenseman at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, helping Russia finish third. He led skaters in assists (seven) and with a plus-12 rating, and defensemen in points (eight). He scored seven points (one goal, six assists) at the 2020 WJC, when Russia finished second.
Romanov said he understands he may begin next season in the American Hockey League.
“I need to prove it,” he said. “I need to train hard and prove to the coaches that I can play in the NHL. I just want to play my first game and play in the NHL. I will be training so hard. … I’m ready to play in the AHL, I’m ready to play in the NHL. I’m ready to play in North America.”
Romanov would become part of a group of young Canadiens that includes 21-year-old defenseman Victor Mete, a fourth-round pick (No. 100) at the 2016 NHL Draft; and 19-year-old center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the No. 3 pick in 2018. Forward Cole Caufield, their first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2019 NHL Draft, is 19 years old and scored 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 36 games for the University of Wisconsin this season.
“Alexander is a young, solid, and very reliable defenseman who is determined to pursue his career in the NHL,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. “He is part of our group of young prospects, and we strongly believe he will become an important asset of our defensive squad for years to come.”