Two pucks got by Cayden Primeau during the 20-year-old’s second appearance in the big leagues, but the 35 shots he stopped earned the Montreal Canadiens‘ young gun his first career win at the NHL level on Wednesday.
The Voorhees, N.J., native has spent the 2019-20 campaign with AHL Laval up until this week, after two seasons with Northeastern University and one year in the USHL before that.
Though his first crack at facing NHL scorers ended with a 3-2 loss to Colorado, the 2017 seventh-round pick said Wednesday he’s just glad to get the first ‘W’ on the board, even if it came in Game 2.
“You know you want to get your first win during your first game, but it’s a learning experience,” Primeau said after Montreal’s win over the Senators. “I took that over the weekend and really worked towards it.
“It’s been a roller coaster, being able to be called up, especially to a team like this, an organization like this. It’s crazy.”
Crazier still if you look at where Primeau’s first win fits into the wider context of Canadiens and NHL history. Let’s take a closer look.
Only four netminders in Canadiens history were younger when they earned their first win
Through the lengthy history of the storied Canadiens franchise, and the number of talented netminders they’ve seen earn Ws in Montreal’s cage, only a handful have done it earlier in their careers than Primeau.
A quick look at the names on that list and the heights they wound up reaching in Montreal paints a promising picture of the young netminder’s potential.
While Len Broderick’s win was in fact the only NHL game he ever appeared in, Patrick Roy’s inaugural win at 19 years and 141 days kicked off a sterling career that brought a Stanley Cup to Montreal just one year later.
The Quebec City native played only one NHL game the year he got that win at 19 years old, but returned the next season for his rookie campaign. The regular season numbers that first year were fairly pedestrian, but a dominant post-season — good for a .923 save percentage and 1.93 goals-against average — earned Roy the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Canadiens’ run in ’86.
It was a similar story for the next name on that list — Jose Theodore’s first win came at age 20 (and 54 days) in ’96 during a regular season that saw him post an .896 save percentage and a 3.87 goals-against average. He followed that up with .935 and a 2.51 through his two post-season appearances. It took Theodore longer to truly hit his stride, but by his mid-20s he was a bona fide starter, earning the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy for his standout 2001-02 campaign.
Carey Price, the man sharing the crease with Primeau in Montreal, earned his first win at 20 years and 55 days old. It came as part of a golden rookie year in which Price shot out of the big-league gates with a .920 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average — good enough to allow the 20-year-old to finish among the top 10 vote-getters for that season’s Vezina Trophy.
Much like Theodore, it took Price a couple years to truly show his best — by his mid-20s he was dominating the awards circuit and considered the best netminder in the game.
Not bad company for the young ‘tender to be a part of. And, for what it’s worth, Price says there’s more similarities between the two than simply the quirky age stats.
“He’s definitely got a quiet demeanour about himself, and he works hard,” Price told Sportsnet’s Eric Engels Wednesday. “He definitely reminds me a bit of my younger self.”
He’s the second netminder in as many seasons to get his first win before age 21
The young ‘tenders are going back-to-back. The other sub-21-year-old to get his first NHL win as of late was Philadelphia’s 20-year-old goaltender Carter Hart, who got his in late 2018 and emerged as a game-changer for the Flyers in 2018-19.
Hart went on to earn 16 wins through 30 games last season, posting a .917 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average for Philly.
The Sherwood Park, Alta., native was thrown into a very different situation than the Canadiens’ young gun. Hart took over as the sixth goalie to suit up for the Flyers in 2018-19, the pressure of turning around the franchise’s well-documented goaltending issues on his shoulders.
He performed well in that role, becoming the youngest netminder since Price to win his NHL debut, and proving himself as the Flyers’ goalie of the future.
Primeau’s got a much stronger safety net in place, with Price only 32 years old with plenty of strong hockey as a starter still left in him. There aren’t many better mentors a young netminder could ask for as he learns the ropes against the high-flying offences of the Eastern Conference.
He and his father, Keith, rank as just the third father-son, goalie-skater duo to be drafted and play in the NHL
Primeau’s surname is well-known among hockey fans of recent generations, with father Keith and uncle Wayne both enjoying long careers at the sport’s highest level.
Keith logged 15 years in the league, posting 619 through 909 games as a centreman for Detroit, Philadelphia, Carolina and Hartford. His son takes the family’s total games played to 1,685, with Cayden adding two to the pile and Wayne throwing 774 into the mix.
Keith and Cayden rank as only the third father-son duo ever to both make it to the big leagues with one playing net and one roaming the ice as a skater.
Goalie Gilles Meloche and winger Eric Meloche also completed the feat, earning 788 and 74 career NHL games, respectively. As did left winger Gaetan Duchesne and netminder Jeremy Duchesne, who logged 1,028 and one NHL appearance, respectively.