The 20-year-old Moscow native, who was drafted 38th overall by the Canadiens in 2018, signed his three-year, entry-level contract worth $2.68 million on July 13. He was hoping to secure his visa, serve his mandatory quarantine in Montreal and join the team for part of its 13-day training camp, but a delay in the process made that impossible.
Instead, Romanov left Moscow on July 21 and arrived in Toronto July 22. He began serving his quarantine on July 23.
On Friday, Romanov took part in the Canadiens’ hour-long practice as an extra before making his first media appearance via Zoom.
“It’s true [it was a dream], and now it’s true I’m in the team,” Romanov said. “I’m so happy because I [am a] Montreal Canadien.”
Canadiens coach Claude Julien said Romanov brought a lot of energy to the ice.
“I saw a young man who was excited to join us,” Julien said. “He was content and happy, and it showed on the ice. It’s been at least two weeks since Alexander last skated, he had to spend a week here in Toronto in quarantine, so for him it was like being freed from prison. He got the chance to join his teammates, and players who he already met at development camp last year.
“His attitude was excellent. The excitement to see this young player be with us, I think it was refreshing, to be honest.”
Romanov accumulated one goal, 11 points and a plus-37 rating over the course of his two seasons with the Kontinental Hockey League’s CSKA Moscow. He appeared in eight career playoff games and helped CSKA win the Gagarin Cup in 2018-19.
Romanov was also a standout with Team Russia at the world junior championships, helping them win a bronze medal in 2019 and a silver medal in 2020 and earning recognition as a tournament all-star in both years.
Though the first year of the five-foot-11, 185-pound defenceman’s contract was burned the day he signed, he’ll only be permitted to practice with the Canadiens from here to the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
Romanov said he intends to return to Russia once the Canadiens season comes to an end, at which point he’ll rest up and prepare to come back to Montreal for next season.
As for his goals for this week, Romanov said he wants to “be with the team, support [the] team, and train a lot.”