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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #12 Cayden Primeau

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Primeau is a rising star in the goaltending world.

2019 Hockey East Championships - Final Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

When Cayden Primeau was selected 199th in the 2017 draft, people were expecting an average USHL goaltender based on how he performed in his draft year. Most thought he would play four years in the NCAA and then potentially join the pro ranks.

Birthplace: Voorhees, New Jersey, USA
Date of birth: August 11, 1999
Drafted: 2017 (199th overall)
Catches: Left
Position: Goaltender
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 198lbs.
Team: Laval Rocket (AHL)

Instead, Primeau crafted two historically great seasons in the NCAA before a surprising decision to turn pro at 19, rocketing to the top of the prospect rankings for his new organization in that time. In what turned out to be his last year of University, Primeau won the Mike Richter Award as the best goalie in NCAA Division I hockey, posting a 25-10-1 record with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage with Northeastern University.

The Montreal Canadiens may have gotten an excellent goaltending prospect out the seventh round, courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers who saw no more value at the end of the draft.

EliteProspects

If some people thought that the 2017-18 season for Primeau was an outlier and not a true reflection of his talent, 2018-19 proved them wrong. Primeau doubled down and posted very similar numbers, demonstrating that his first year in the NCAA was no fluke.

Voting

I ranked Primeau as our 10th best prospect. The panel had him from eight to 15, with Nathan and Justin each putting him a few spots within the top 10.

I feel that Primeau has the toolkit and the potential to become a starter in the NHL. If he keeps putting up incredible seasons as he has done the last two years, he could very well become the heir apparent to Carey Price.

Top 25 Under 25 History

A sub-.900 save percentage in his draft season didn’t impress the EOTP staff any more than the Flyers’ scouting department, as he was ranked 36th in the summer of 2017. It wasn’t long into 2017-18 that our heads were turned along with everyone else’s in the hockey world after some incredible displays in the NCAA. A jump that tied for the largest in the project’s history resulted (19 spots), and that was followed up with another sizable leap this year.

History of #3

Year #3
Year #3
2018 Artturi Lehkonen
2017 Artturi Lehkonen
2016 Mikhail Sergachev
2015 Nathan Beaulieu
2014 Nathan Beaulieu
2013 Max Pacioretty
2012 Alex Galchenyuk
2011 Max Pacioretty
2010 Lars Eller

Strengths

Primeau worked hard in his short collegiate career on polishing a few aspects of his game, such as positioning and angling. He also became really good at swallowing shots, giving up fewer rebounds. Constantly following the play and being able to track the puck lends itself to that control.

He changed his stance to a lower one, using his height and legs to his advantage. He’s able to easily extend from post to post to keep the ice sealed. Thanks to his strong lateral movement, he’s able to cover up mistakes from his defence by quickly reacting to a cross-seam pass. His strong strides allow him to get into position quickly and react to shots in a cleaner manner.

He uses his stick a lot in his play. He blocks low shots and sealing the small bit of the ice that his butterfly stance can’t. He will extend his stick to actively break up passes from behind the net or prevent a pass across the top of his crease.

On any game highlighs you see, you’ll catch him making big saves. In the NCAA, he became the guy who would make that one important save at a critical point in the game. His ability to come up big when needed helped him push the Huskies to new heights.

He wasn’t just making the full-split, desperate, lunging saves to show off. Using his strong foundation, he’s able to use controlled movements, only using full-on extensions if it’s absolutely necessary. Being able to read the plays developing in front of him very well gives him this advantage of knowing when to fully commit to a shot.

Superb reaction speed adds to his other abilities to make a rare goaltender whom you almost expect to stop all deflections and redirections. When he’s on his game, which he usually is, you can see expect him to make those tough saves look easy.

One of the biggest improvement over his 2017-18 season was his aggressiveness. He kept the shooters in check by coming out of his crease even more, cutting angles and staying on the edge of his crease. He’s baits a shooter into a poisition where the forward thinks he might beat him, only to use his legs or glove to shut the chance down..

Weaknesses

Primeau doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses as a goaltender right now. His overall game is already very strong. What he will need to do now is keep pushing, keep polishing his skills, and work on his consistency even more.

If he keeps working out, adding some strength — but not too much muscle that would cut his speed and put more strain on his body while using a butterfly style — he should be able to elevate himself even further.

Building up his mental game, getting used to the pro ranks, and understanding the pressure that comes with being a goaltender for a city like Montreal will help him achieve his potential. It’s not the easiest job in hockey due to amazing names like Plante, Dryden and Price being torchbearers for the position.

Projection

Primeau just turned 20 a few days ago. It isn’t easy to project how such a young player will look down the line in three to four years — especially a netminder. Yet, out of all of the Canadiens’ goaltending prospects, he looks to be the most likely to get a starting job in the NHL. He has the raw talent, the athleticism, and the mental game.

He may be a late-bloomer, but looking at his stats, the only season in his life that ended with a save percentage below .900 was his draft year; most seasons and tournaments have seen him well above that mark.

This upcoming year in the AHL will be an excellent test to see how he performs in the pro ranks as a young goaltender. His development has been incredible, as he’s showing great improvements year-over-year. If he can keep trending in that direction, he has the potential to, one day, replace Carey Price.