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Alexander Romanov’s leadership is what has stood out this WJC

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Many experts and pundits are expressing their surprise at the Russian defender’s play, but it’s his leadership that is the true feature at the World Juniors.

United States v Russia: Semifinals - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

While once again the defensive and offensive play from the CSKA defender has marvelled experts and fans that might not watch KHL games regularly, I would argue it is Alexander Romanov’s leadership qualities that have been the most impressive aspects of his tournament.

First and foremost, he leads by example. He plays more than the majority of Russian players, and he can play in all situations. It gives the other players something to aspire to; a beacon for his own teammates to follow.

You can tell players look up to him. They look for him when they have the puck down low, because they know Romanov can handle the pressure. They give him the puck in any situation because they know he will make the right play, with control.

When not in international competition, he’s playing for CSKA, the best team in the KHL, and that pedigree of playing with the Red Army team carries weight. But you still have to earn trust, and Romanov has earned that among his peers. That is leadership.

He will speak with the referees, but in a respectful way that caries respect in return. It also shows that Romanov has a cool head and uses it for the good of the team. Petulance gets you nowhere with officials, and those conversations can only help his team’s cause.

Most importantly, Romanov is the player who goes to his teammates when they are ailing. While other players on the ice stand up for the hurt player, Romanov’s focus is more often than not on the player that is down, making sure that the player is okay before thinking about retribution. He will help the player off the ice with a friendly arm to lean on.

It has been evident when the Russian bench is shown during the tournament. Romanov will lean over, crack a joke or say a few words of what I can only assume is encouragement. One of the most physical players of the tournament uses a soft leadership that benefits his team in the long run. These qualities are what you look for in a leader. You want someone to be an example, showing respect and compassion and making sure that everyone is seen and heard.

These are all qualities that go well with his nickname of “The Tsar”. Tsar Alexander II was called the Liberator as he emancipated the serfs, created a new judicial system making sure everyone was seen and had an opportunity to shine.

The player the Montreal Canadiens drafted in 2018 was an unknown, but at the moment he is one of the outstanding players from that draft. He seems to be the same kind of leader as his namesake born 200 years ago, a leader that wants what’s best for the team long-term rather than make a name for himself.