Alexander Romanov is constantly matched against older players in the regular season as he evolves in the KHL, the second-best league in the world. The World Junior Hockey Championship is then a special occasion for him to showcase what he can do against his peers, as a rarely selected 18-year-old defenceman for the Russian team.
And he didn’t disappoint in his debut.
Romanov came onto the ice a new defender in Russia’s opening game. Not only was he the team’s best blue-liner, he was its best player in a 4-0 victory over the Danes yesterday, recognized with the Player of the Game award at the end of it.
Flashes of confidence and skill that weren’t previously common in his play happened every shift he was on the ice. He was a dominant force in his ability to shut down the already struggling offence of Denmark, and also in his team’s transition, moving the puck efficiently and carrying it out himself all the way to the other end at times.
Plus, he contributed to the offence in a major way. A booming shot pierced the opposing goalie, and his mobility turned into a couple of good offensive chances for Russia. At the end of the game, he was even challenging opposing defenders to get inside the dots and fire on net.
Romanov was soon slotted onto the second power play by the coaching staff, having earned his time there with his strong performance. He also got his share of minutes on the penalty kill. The Russians usually operate with a strong bias for older players, giving them most of the special-teams assignments, so Romanov moving up on the depth chart to fill while both a man up and a man down is no small feat.
It was a game against Denmark, the team that lost 14-0 to Canada the previous night, yes, but Romanov’s play, even considering the level of competition he was against, was still downright impressive. It was beyond what could have been expected of him with what he had shown in the past.
There is no reason to not expect a very strong showing from the defenceman for the rest of the tournament based on what we saw in his opening-day performance.
Here’s a video breaking down in detail some of the defender’s plays in the first game.