NHL Player of the Month: Alexander Romanov
In a month filled with more injuries, COVID cases, and postponements, Alexander Romanov was unfazed by the constant turmoil, relishing the chance to play bigger minutes in an elevated role. Prior to November 27, he had played 20 minutes or more 13 times in his two seasons in Montreal. He’s now hit that total seven times in his past 11 games.
His career high came on Tuesday night, when he had a major hand in getting a team half comprised of AHL players to overtime versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. His final total was 26:53 that night, with 5:43 of that spent facing the Lightning’s top power-play unit.
Seeing significant time on the penalty kill is nothing new for Romanov, as he ranks fourth this season on the team in short-handed minutes played. He leads all Habs defencemen with the fewest shots, scoring chances, and expected goals allowed while a man down this season, and in December had nearly seven fewer high-danger chances allowed per 60 minutes than his current partner, David Savard.
His presence around his net has been making it difficult for opponents to attack from in close, and his five-on-five scoring chances allowed were also among the lowest on the team. He ranked second on the team in shots blocked, and ran away with the hits lead, several of the variety below:
Alexander Romanov...That's it, that's the tweet pic.twitter.com/9uBUcWODXi— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 12, 2021
It wasn’t just defence that stood out. Romanov netted his second goal of the season on December 11 and added an assist two games later. He led all blue-liners and tied for fourth on the team with Cole Caufield for individual scoring chances, and drew a team-high four penalties for his efforts in December.
He’s clearly gained confidence in his play in his own zone to become one of the club’s top defenders. In this season that’s now about looking toward the future, fleshing out his offensive play will ensure 2021-22 is far from a lost campaign for the soon-to-be 22-year-old.
Honourable mention: David Savard
There were some stats for which Romanov didn’t lead the defence, and that was usually because Savard claimed the top spot in those categories. He even tied for the team lead in points for December, which is ... kind of sad actually since that number is just four, but that’s a great nine-game total for a defenceman.
Like Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson before him, Savard needed some time to settle into a role on the team, and he’s now a steady option giving Romanov a shoulder to lean on as the young player rapidly develops into a top-four defenceman.
AHL Player of the Month: Cayden Primeau
It was a hectic month for Cayden Primeau. As it kicked off, the young goalie had wrested control of the net in Laval, starting six games before COVID began impacting the hockey world once again.
In those six starts, Primeau put together a 4-1-1 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, and .929 save percentage. His outstanding performance helped to push Laval back into the AHL’s playoff picture, and it even earned him a recall to the Canadiens before the pandemic put everything on pause.
What’s most impressive about this run is that he looks like an entirely new player between the pipes at both the AHL and NHL level. He has been much more composed, controlling rebounds and keeping a fairly level head even when things break down.
Cayden Primeau just calmly robs Curtis Douglas along the goal line pic.twitter.com/FOOzVH3434— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 5, 2021
While the Rocket as a whole have been playing much better hockey, some of their recent wins wouldn’t have happened without Primeau’s hard work between the pipes. His four wins on the month came in games he made 32, 34, 39, and 38 saves, respectively. In past years, we saw him melt a little when the pressure was on late in games, but this year Primeau has been about as rock solid as a goalie can be in high-leverage situations.
The Canadiens’ goaltending hierarchy remains a mystery for the near future, but if he continues his current form, Primeau should be a centrepiece of it.
European Prospect of the Month: Frederik Dichow
It is almost as if this section is set on repeat, as Dichow claims his third player of the month honour. However, with a 50-save shutout, a 1.20 goals-against average, .954 save percentage, and four wins in five games, ‘The Gnome’ has been dominant. No other player in Europe has been even close to a similar performance, no matter what position they play.
The biggest development for Dichow seems to be his mental game. He is more focused on the right things. He can still lose his composure after an easy goal against, but the times this happens are now few and far between. It happened once in December when he dropped four goals over two periods of hockey before being substituted, but in his next game he came back and posted a shutout.
Dichow was loaned up to the SHL leader, Rögle, during Kristianstad’s Christmas break. While the Dane didn’t get to play, it was a vote of confidence from teams higher up in the system that he is indeed someone to look at when it comes to next year. Dichow confirmed in an exclusive interview with Eyes On The Prize that it is the AHL or SHL next year, and everyone is talking to make sure what is the best fit for the big goalie.
January will be an important month for Dichow as he will try to prove himself and get a roster spot on the Danish Olympic Team. Can he make it four titles in a row now that Mattias Norlinder has returned to Europe?
Hear more on Dichow in the podcast below:
North American Prospect of the Month: Joshua Roy
Roy continues to impress with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, leading the team in points by a margin of nine with 17 goals and 30 assists in 27 games. He looked outstanding in his December games despite his eight points (3G, 5A) in six games representing a drop in his production rate, using his passing a lot more efficiently than he did previously to open up lanes and play give-and-go with his teammates.
With Kaiden Guhle basically a lock as a returnee.. I am looking forward to how Habs prospect Joshua Roy does at the Canadian World Junior Camp. Leading the QMJHL in scoring as an 18-year old is pretty impressive. #gohabsgo #wjc pic.twitter.com/YmfzdowruS— Sean M (@SNMarcellus) December 4, 2021
Especially on the power-play, Roy has developed a dual-threat game that contrasts with his previous shoot-first mindset, which led to a lot of dead plays last season. His off-puck positioning and opponent manipulation have come a long way as well, rendering him a threat both with and without the disc and making everyone around him more dangerous.
With his league-leading performances, Roy earned a call-up to Team Canada’s World Junior Championship selection camp, earning a couple of games next to Connor Bedard before being sent back home. Not that he missed out on much, with the tournament being cancelled four days in.
Upon his return to Sherbrooke, Roy netted a point in back-to-back games, and is set to hit the ground running at the end of the holiday break. If he continues to watch his training and nutrition as he has so far this year to get into pro-ready shape, Roy could keep building off of his current production and become a great player for the Canadiens in the future.