Cayden Primeau Shines in Canadiens Debut

On Sunday, Sept. 22, Montreal Canadiens goalie prospect Cayden Primeau was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. But, his first game with the big club has the organization excited about his potential.

Cayden Primeau Montreal Canadiens draft
Cayden Primeau, Montreal Canadiens, 2017 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When Primeau texted his father Keith that he’d be dressing for his first NHL preseason game on Sept. 16 but not playing, the young goalie didn’t interpret the situation correctly. That’s when the elder Primeau started asking questions.

“How did they tell you? Did they say Carey’s playing and you’re backing up?’ Keith Primeau told Eric Engels of Sportsnet. ‘No no,’ his son answered. “It was just Price and Primeau on the board.’

Keith, a former NHL All-Star, had a 15-year career notably with the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. He remembered from his playing days that the goalies split duties in early exhibition games. He and his wife Lisa were in Montreal by 3:00 a.m. game day.

The Save that Stopped the World

For the younger Primeau, the day was a blur.

“I was just trying to take it all in,” he said. “It was my first time experiencing something like this.”

He spent the first 30 minutes of the game against the New Jersey Devils on the bench and watched Price make eight saves. With Montreal holding a 2-1 lead, he got the nod to take over in the crease.

“He just needs to feel the puck early,” said Keith. Despite his father’s best wishes, Cayden didn’t have much time to get settled. A turnover at the Habs’ blue line immediately off the draw sent the Devils in on a two-on-one. Nico Hischier came speeding down the left-wing and fed a pass to Blake Coleman in front.

Cayden slid across and kicked out his left pad to make a sensational save. The crowd erupted, chanting “Primeau!”

“That’s not what I meant when I said he just needs to feel the puck early,” Keith told Engels. Cayden stopped 11 more shots in the third period to secure a 4-2 victory for the Canadiens. Mike McLeod scored off a brutal bounce after Primeau tried to play the puck behind the net. Sometimes those things happen but, Jake Evans helped him out and reclaimed the lead for the Canadiens with a shorthanded goal. Nick Cousins got the extra marker later in the third.

After the game, Primeau reflected on his night.

The young goalie has few memories from his debut, but he electrified a crowd of ecstatic Habs fans like many great Canadiens before him.

What’s Next for Primeau?

The American-born, 20-year-old is slated to start the 2019-20 season with the Rocket for his first professional season. It’s crowded in now in Laval with Michael McNiven and Charlie Lindgren also fighting for playing time. One of them could be sent to the ECHL or even traded.

Primeau had promising numbers in the NCAA with a 1.92 goals-against average (GAA) and .931 save percentage(SV%) in 2017-18, and 2.09 GAA and .933 SV% in 2018-19. That season was capped off by an incredible performance for Team USA and a silver medal at the 2019 World Junior Championships.

Cayden Primeau Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau makes a save against New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

He likes the way Pekka Rinne approaches the position and uses his athleticism to his advantage. With his raw talent ripe to be developed, Montreal has a unique opportunity with McNiven and Lindgren to have a long-term pipeline of solid goaltending talent if they keep all three. Primeau has already been compared to his possible mentor, Price, and with some good mentorship from his veteran counterpart, Primeau’s ceiling is extremely high.

With the regular season on the horizon, Primeau is poised to begin his professional career having participated in two training camps. Laval opened Monday, Sep. 23 with head coach Joel Bouchard and his staff, where Primeau began his opportunity to compete for the starting job with the Rocket.