American Hockey League

Primeau on path to become Habs’ goalie of future

Primeau has a 6-2-1 record, 1.87 GAA, .934 SP and stopped 20 Bridgeport shots on Saturday in a 3-0 victory for his first AHL shutout.

The goalie who one day is expected to supplant Carey Price in the Canadiens’ net doesn’t shave yet. Or, if he does, isn’t required to do so with any great frequency.

“It’s good to be young. Hopefully I’ll stay young for a while,” the cherubic Cayden Primeau, who turned 20 three months ago, said following practice Tuesday at Place Bell before the Laval Rocket boarded a bus for Toronto and Wednesday night’s game against the Marlies — one that veteran Charlie Lindgren is expected to start.

In his first pro season, Primeau — the last goaltender taken in the 2017 draft — has lived up to his advance billing. Selected in the seventh round (199th overall), the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has backstopped the Rocket with dependable and solid play.

Cayden Primeau stops shot by William Pelletier during Laval Rocket practice on Sept. 25, 2019.

Pierre Obendrauf /

Montreal Gazette

In nine games, Primeau has allowed only 17 goals for a 1.87 goals-against average. He has a 6-2-1 record, a .934 save percentage and stopped 20 Bridgeport shots last Saturday in a 3-0 victory for his first American Hockey League shutout.

While it was Primeau’s first shutout, perhaps of more consequence was that it came after he allowed a season-high five goals in a loss to Belleville. That game marked the first time the rookie had surrendered more than three goals in a game.

Among the many attributes required of netminders is a short memory.

“It was huge to get back after that,” said Primeau, who noted he tries not to dwell on poor performances. “It happened. I didn’t feel my best. I just tried to come the next day ready to play (although) Charlie had the next game. I was just trying to focus on having a good few days to get ready for the next one.”

Primeau, a native of Voorhees, N.J., had a stellar career at Northeastern University. He helped the Huskies win their third Hockey East tournament last winter. He was named the tournament’s most valuable player and received the Mike Richter award as goaltender of the year.

Although Northeastern lost to Cornell in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Primeau went 25-9-1 in 35 games. He had a 2.00 average, .936 save percentage and four shutouts. That came after he helped the U.S. to a silver medal in the 2019 world junior championship, where he made five starts and had a sterling 1.61 average.

Primeau has had to adjust to the pace of the pro game and long road trips by bus, as well as playing three games in four days most weeks.

But the biggest transition has come from his playing time. While Primeau started most of the Huskies’ games, Laval head coach Joël Bouchard has alternated him with Lindgren on a game-by-game basis. Lindgren has allowed 26 goals in his nine games and, while he also has a shutout, his 4-4-1 record and .889 save percentage aren’t particularly impressive.

“I’m trying to stay dialed in every night because anything can happen. You don’t know,” Primeau said. “You have to prepare as if you’re playing every game. That’s been a big adjustment because it’s very taxing, mentally and physically.

“I’m trying to figure out physically what works for me to get myself ready. Mentally, it’s good to get away from the game. Do your stuff that you have to at the rink but, when you’re away, try to put it aside.”


Bouchard said he has no plans to amend his rotation system, since his mandate is to develop players.

“For Cayden, he’s a rookie. He’s going to play the amount he needs to play as a young man,” Bouchard said. “The (AHL) doesn’t allow you to play guys 65 games.

“Cayden comes in and listens to direction. He observes. He takes everything into account. He applies himself in practice or games.”

And he has good bloodlines, the son of former NHL forward Keith Primeau, who played 13 seasons with four teams.

Bouchard isn’t ready to anoint the younger Primeau the Canadiens’ goaltender of the future. But he likes the small body of work he’s witnessed.

“What excites me the most isn’t his performance. It’s the person,” Bouchard said. “I like the way he comes to the rink, the way he handles himself off the ice. The way he approaches games and adversity. The future’s bright for him. I don’t have a crystal ball — but I like him.”

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