In a quiet off-season for the NY Islanders, the lone addition to the roster is the recently acquired Alexander Romanov. Obtained from the Montreal Canadiens at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Romanov will add a physical presence and smooth-skating that the Isles were missing along their blue line last season.
Heading into day one of the draft, the Islanders owned their first-round pick for the first time since 2019. It was expected that Lou Lamoriello would dangle the pick to improve the roster for the upcoming season. In the moments before the draft, rumors swirled that the Isles were on the verge of acquiring JT Miller from the Vancouver Canucks, and the first-round pick would be heading to the Pacific Northwest.
The trade for Miller ultimately fell through but the Isles were still looking to move the pick. Soon after, Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed there were trades to announce. The usual boo's from the crowd ultimately turned to cheers when Bettman mentioned the hometown Canadiens were involved in the trade. The Habs sent Romanov to the Isles in exchange for the 13th overall pick, which was flipped to the Chicago Blackhawks for Kirby Dach.
It wasn't the splash that Isles fans were expecting, but after some reflection, it was as if the Isles used their first-round pick to select the 22-year-old, Romanov.
The Isles struggled last season with mobility on the back end as the aging Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene found it difficult to keep up at times. Skating is arguably the strongest part of Romanov's game. In an interview with the New York Post, former teammate Chris Wideman said of Romanov:
"He’s a freak. He’s a freak athlete. He’s a freak, strength, his flexibility. He would take two-minute shifts and come off, be ready to go again. He doesn’t get tired."- Former teammate Chris Wideman
Aside from his skating, Romanov is capable of delivering some of the biggest bone-crushing collisions in the NHL. When the opportunity presents itself, Romanov looks to take the body, whether it be along the boards or in open ice. At times, he can take himself out of position in search of the hit. His positioning has also been stated to be an issue occasionally, but with the right system, it's something that can be improved upon.
At times last season, Romanov struggled in Montreal as the team accrued the fewest total points in the league. Like many of his former Canadiens teammates, the tide seemed to turn for the Moscow native when Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench on February 9th.
St. Louis seemed to trust his young defenseman in more situations where former head coach Dominique Ducharme lacked faith. Under Ducharme, Romanov averaged 18:49 of ice time. Once St. Louis took control of the lineup, Romanov jumped three minutes per game, averaging 22:10 of ice time.
After signing a three-year $7.5M contract with the Islanders, Romanov will in all likelihood be looking at top-4 minutes this year. Paired with either Noah Dobson or Ryan Pulock, he will be expected to eat up minutes at even-strength along with the penalty kill.
"Rommy," as he was referred to in the Canadiens locker room, will look to improve in the offensive end during his first season on Long Island. In his 133 games across two NHL seasons, Romanov has only totaled 19 career points. Once signed by the Islanders, he made it clear that he has emphasized improving with the puck during the off-season.
"I would like to bring offense. I want to improve my game with the puck. I also can play physical, can hit guys, start attacks, breakouts. I want to play more in the offensive zone. I want to bring more of an offensive game."- Alexander Romanov
Coming over to the Islanders, Romanov will at least have some familiarity as he adjusts to life in a new city. Romanov spent time with Isles goaltender Ilya Sorokin, playing for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. The pair were highly successful in their time together, winning a Gagarin Cup in 2019. He has made it known that he is spending a lot of time with Sorokin since arriving on Long Island.
Romanov looks like he will be part of the Islanders' long-term plans along with Pulock, Dobson, and Adam Pelech. A fresh start on a team with playoff expectations should be a good change of scenery for Romanov. Right away, he will be an essential part of the defensive corps with his tenacity and agile skating.