The Montreal Canadiens are optimistic blue-chip defensive prospect Alexander Romanov will make an instant impact as a rookie this season.
"Obviously we have to let him have a chance to come in and earn that spot and prove it, but it's there for him to do that," assistant coach Luke Richardson said, according to NHL.com's Jon Lane. "We've evaluated players before and you've seen them come out of the world juniors as stars and do very well in the NHL, so we're expecting nothing less than that for Romanov."
"He's a very excitable player, exciting to watch," Richardson continued. "He plays with the passion and excitement. That's always fun and that'll look really great on a Saturday night in the Bell Centre."
The Canadiens drafted Romanov 38th overall in 2018, and they signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract in July. He joined the Habs in Toronto for training camp before the NHL's return to play, but Romanov wasn't eligible to suit up in the qualifying round and playoffs.
Bringing him over to North America burned a year of Romanov's entry-level deal. But that was worth it for Montreal, as head coach Claude Julien is already thinking about the Russian rearguard's spot in the lineup.
"If he's that good, he'll be a second pairing before you know it," Julien said. "But I think we allow him to develop and gain some experience at a comfortable pace and allow him to showcase what he's able to do.
"He's a very confident individual. Who knows where he's going to be once the season starts? This is a guy who can surprise a lot of people just because he's got those attributes, but he's also got the confidence to go with it, so he may be pushing a lot of people before you know it."
Romanov has spent the past two seasons with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. His offensive production as a teenager in Russia's top league was pedestrian, but Romanov has established himself on the international stage. He was named to the Media All-Star Team at the 2019 and 2020 world juniors, and the blue-liner earned top defenseman honors at the former tournament.