When Marc Bergevin was hired as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, he insisted that he would build the team through the draft to become perennial contenders. He has preached patience, and while the wait has been a long one, Montreal’s depth chart is about to get a significant injection of skill thanks to a few recent draft selections who will be turning pro next season.
Alexander Romanov Leads Russian Contingent Coming to Montreal
The fanbase rejoiced earlier this month when highly touted defensive prospect Alexander Romanov, the Canadiens’ second-round pick (38th overall) in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, signed his three-year, entry-level deal. Bergevin left the start date of the contract open since Romanov may be allowed to join the Canadiens now that the NHL has announced a 24-team playoff format sometime this summer.
The 20-year-old Moscow native played 86 games with CSKA since joining the KHL in 2018-19. He registered 11 points while maintaining a plus-37 rating. On the international stage, Romanov is a two-time medalist at the IIHF World Junior Championship and was named to the WJC All-Star Team on both occasions. In his first appearance, he was named the tournament’s best defenseman after leading all players in assists and all defensemen in points.
“It’s my dream to play in the NHL. It’s my dream to play in Montreal. It’s my favourite dream. I’m so excited. I’m so happy to come to Montreal and to come to Canada,” Romanov said.
Related: NHL Announces 24-Team Playoff Format
He won’t be the only Russian making the move to Montreal. He will be joined by compatriots Arsen Khisamutdinov and Vasili Demchenko who signed their entry-level contracts for next season. Khisamutdinov is a 6-foot-3 forward chosen in the sixth round (170th overall) by the Canadiens in last year’s draft. Over the past two seasons, he has appeared in 40 games with Nizhnekamsk of the KHL. Meanwhile, Demchenko is a veteran KHL goaltender. Since making his debut in 2011-12, the 26-year-old has posted an 81-86-25 record in 212 games with Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk.
Bergevin kept busy during the hiatus also signing forwards Cameron Hillis and Jesse Ylönen to deals starting next season. Hillis was selected by the Canadiens in the third round of the 2018 Draft (66th overall). Named captain of the OHL’s Guelph Storm for the 2019-20 season, Hillis put up 83 points in 62 games and was named one of the league’s top defensive forwards in the OHL’s Coaches Poll.
Ylönen is the fourth Habs draft pick from 2018 to earn an entry-level contract. He played 53 games with the Finnish Liiga’s Lahti Pelicans this season, ranking second on the team in goals and fourth in points.
Habs Youth Movement Has Already Started
While these new additions are expected to begin their pro careers with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Laval, with the exception of Romanov, these prospects will be joining an already solid group who are pushing for a permanent spot in the Canadiens’ lineup.
Nick Suzuki, 20, accomplished that feat this season, scoring 13 goals and 41 points in his rookie campaign. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the third overall pick in 2018, made the team as an 18-year-old last season and produced 34 points. This year, he split his time between Montreal and Laval, putting up 13 points in 13 games in his AHL debut.
Jake Evans, Cale Fleury, Ryan Poehling, and Cayden Primeau, all aged 23 or younger, spent time with the Canadiens this season and each made their presence felt at the NHL level. Primeau was also named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team for the 2019-20 season. Noah Juulsen, the Habs’ first-round pick in 2015, is finally feeling like himself and ready to fulfill his potential after struggling with vision issues and migraines for the better part of two years.
Not to mention that Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin are still just 25 years old and have yet to hit their prime.
Coming Soon: Cole Caufield
While Cole Caufield and the Canadiens decided it would be best for his development to spend a second season with the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA next year, Montreal’s 2019 first-round pick (15th overall) will soon be in the team’s fold in the professional ranks to join their expanding and rapidly improving young core.
Caufield showcased his goal-scoring prowess as a freshman at Wisconsin this year, notching 19 goals and 36 points in 36 games. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-Big Ten for his efforts.
This comes after Caufield dominated in his time in the United States Under-18 program with 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games. It won’t be long before he’s filling the net for the Habs.
Plus, with a whopping 14 picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, including a likely top-10 selection, Montreal has even more help on the way.
The Canadiens’ prospect cupboard was bare when Bergevin arrived and we’re soon going to find out just how well he’s filled it over the past few years. If the cupboard is indeed full, Bergevin’s roster reset will move forward in a hurry and the future will quickly become the present.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.