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Cayden Primeau is showing he’s NHL-ready

Early signs point to Cayden Primeau being a legitimate NHL goaltender.

Ottawa Senators v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

I don’t know what Marc Bergevin was planning with making Cayden Primeau the backup goaltender to Carey Price. The Montreal Canadiens were beyond struggling when they made the call-up, and I honestly thought it was a terrible idea to throw a 20-year-old netminder to the wolves as it were.

I was wrong, because at least in the small sample we’ve seen, Primeau appears to be more than show ready.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Habs held a solid edge in scoring chances, as well as high-danger chances over the Senators. However, they were outshot, and out-attempted rather handily on the night. The Canadiens’ ability to generate quality scoring chances was evident, but Primeau played a major role in securing a huge two points for his team.

I was fortunate enough to have some incredible seats on Wednesday night against the Senators, at the end where the Habs defended twice. I was treated to an excellent view of Primeau for two-thirds of the game.

Now that the humble brag is out of the way — believe me, I don’t get seats that good very often — one of the things that struck me the most was his puck tracking ability. There was a moment in the first period where the Senators were on the attack, and a blocked shot went up in the air very quickly.

None of the players seemed to be sure where the puck went, and most of the people in our section were also trying to find it. I looked over at Primeau, and he was using his glove hand to point at the puck and follow it as it fell. It was an early sign of things to come, as he made a lot of quality saves on screened shots thanks to his tracking.

Price said after the game that Primeau reminded him of a younger version of himself with his calm demeanour. High praise, and it’s hard to argue with that because there were very few moments where he had to scramble to get himself in position to make a save. Like Price, he made tough saves look easy by being calm, not over-committing, and being extremely well positioned.

Ottawa sent 37 pucks his way through regulation, and though they scored twice, you can’t really fault him on either goal. When he had a good look at the puck, he made the saves, and either covered up or sent rebounds flying into the corners, giving very little in terms of secondary scoring chances for the Senators to work with.

Again, I don’t know what Marc Bergevin’s plan is with Primeau. But whether he’s auditioning simply to be Price’s backup, for the starting role itself, or being shown off for potential trade partners, his play through two starts and in particular against the Senators suggest that he’s NHL ready.

It is far too early to suggest there is a goaltending controversy in Montreal, especially with the way Price has been playing in December. There is also no rush to do anything with Primeau in the first year of en entry-level deal, so they can afford to wait and see how things play out.

For the moment, they should be very content that he seems to be capable of providing high quality starts on nights when Price could use a break.