VANCOUVER - Before the Canadiens practiced at Rogers Arena on Monday afternoon, general manager Marc Bergevin fielded a variety of questions from members of the media.
With respect to his recent trip to Russia to meet with highly-touted prospect Alexander Romanov, Bergevin indicated that chances are good we'll be seeing him in Montreal next season.
Bergevin watched the 19-year-old defenseman play two games for CSKA Moscow (KHL), and he was rather impressed with his performances.
"I liked what I saw. He's not a player that's going to run huge numbers, but he's a player that's going to close his gap and make a good first pass. He's in your face, time and space, he takes that away, he's smart and he boxes out very well," praised Bergevin, who selected Romanov in the second round, 38th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. "But he's a young kid for the KHL, so I see that translating at the NHL level in time. It shouldn't be that long, but I see him being in Montreal next year."
Bergevin confirmed that he sat down with Romanov's father and agent to discuss the youngster's future, and he came away confident that "the kid wants to be a Montreal Canadien."
Bergevin was also asked about another one of the Canadiens' top prospects - 20-year-old goaltender Cayden Primeau - who was stellar in between the pipes during his first recall with Montreal.
Primeau started two games, earned his first NHL win, and posted a 2.52 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage along the way.
On Saturday morning, though, Primeau was reassigned to the AHL's Laval Rocket. Bergevin believes it's the right move for his long-term development.
"He's a young goaltender, so it's going to take games and a lot of mileage. The best place for that mileage is Laval," explained Bergevin, on the decision to return the Northeastern University product to Joel Bouchard's squad. "Practicing [with the Canadiens] is good for him, but being in game situations is better. He needs mileage. He needs to see pucks."
In the meantime, Bergevin indicated that Charlie Lindgren will eventually be given an opportunity to play while backing up Carey Price.
"Charlie's been good in Laval, so at some point he'll get his chance," said Bergevin, regarding the 25-year-old Lakeville, MN native who owns a 7-6-2 record with Laval this season. "We intend to give him a chance to perform."
As for his veterans, Bergevin couldn't say enough good things about captain Shea Weber and assistant captain Brendan Gallagher.
Weber's remarkable play and production has the GM beaming with pride.
"When Shea Weber is healthy, he's a house. He's "Man Mountain." He's been outstanding for us on and off the ice," said Bergevin, after watching Weber amass 10 goals and 27 points in 33 games thus far this year. "He plays in all key situations. He logs quality ice time against top players, plays on the penalty kill, power play, you name it. He's a huge part of our team. Even when he doesn't get points, he helps you win. He makes your team better. His leadership, the culture he brings to our organization is off the charts."
Like Weber, Gallagher is a consummate workhorse as well. And he also boasts a team-leading 14 goals and ranks third on the roster with 26 points - one behind Weber, and just two back of leader Tomas Tatar.
"He's low-maintenance, high-return. Every night, every shift, you know what you're getting - and it's 150 percent," explained Bergevin. "He drags his teammates into the fight. That's what Brendan Gallagher is all about."
Amidst all the good that Bergevin is seeing from his group, however, there are a couple of areas of concern.
The club's 8-8-3 record at the Bell Centre - compared with a 7-4-3 record on the road - isn't exactly comforting.
"I don't know the reason why, but we play better on the road than at home. That's something that we have to rectify," insisted Bergevin. "Are we more stressed at home? Do we squeeze the stick too tight trying to be more pretty? I don't know the reason why, but it needs to be better."
Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference in Vancouver
Bergevin also identified special teams play and consistency as issues as well.
"Our penalty kill needs to improve. Our power play I think overall has been pretty consistent all year, but our penalty kill needs to be better," added Bergevin. "And for us to stay in the fight and make the playoffs, we need to be more consistent. Those are areas I'd like to see us improving. But we are where I thought we'd be, fighting for a playoff spot. That's where I see our team right now."