Before the season, people wondered whether Alexander Romanov would be ready to make the jump to NHL regular. Questions about his size, and adapting to the North American ice were concerns that were brought up, together with his low production with CSKA.
Eager to prove his detractors wrong, Romanov charged out of the box in the first couple of games, but his performance dropped along with Montreal’s own struggles.
Victor Mete’s agent wasn’t shy asking for a trade in a very public manner when he had to sit out the first games of the season. Still, when Mete got the chance with Ben Chiarot’s injury, he took it and he hasn’t really looked back. The two defenders have started to form a bond that brings the best out of both, and the strength of the pairing rests firmly on their skating ability. The skating helps the pair cover for each other in different situations of the game, and what started out as a rotation, seems to have built a foundation that Dominique Ducharme can count on.
Give the young defenders a chance to develop that chemistry and understanding in order for the pairing to become a unit that can help the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge many years going forward. Putting Mete on the right side and Romanov on the left seems to have helped as well, although there are times when they will switch as needed.
This was evident Monday night where the Montreal Canadiens controlled 87.5% of 5-on-5 shots-at-goal (Corsi-for) while Romanov was on the ice. With Mete on the ice, it was at 85%. This while going toe to toe with one of the top forwards groups in the league, where Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl sit on top of the league’s scoring leaders. Romanov and Mete played around three minutes of five on five against McDavid.
Looking down the prospect pool this is just a sign of things to come; Josh Brook, Kaiden Guhle, Mattias Norlinder, Jayden Struble, and Jordan Harris will come into the team over the next few years. Romanov and Mete lead this charge of young defenders.
It’s easy to forget because of their professional experience, but Romanov is only 21 years old, and Mete is still only 22. Even with Ben Chiarot’s pending return, it is not the end, and it may not even be the beginning of the end. It could just be the start of the beginning.