It’s easy to forget Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk is just 21 years old.
Sure, he will be 22 in just a few months. Still, he’s now seemingly coming into his own, despite early offensive struggles this season, despite being drafted just three years ago.
Galchenyuk at 18
Entering the league as a teenager—having been drafted as a center—he was brought along slowly on the wing, but sill managed an impressive 27-point campaign during his rookie season—the lockout-shortened 48-game one in 2012-2013. That translates to 46 over 82 games.
To put that in perspective, 27 points is a decent total for an 18-year-old over the course of an entire season. For example, Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who is now being compared to great Mark Messier, managed just nine points in 37 games last season just after being drafted before the team realized he wasn’t ready.
Perhaps the Draisaitl comparison to Messier is more apt than anyone realizes, because Messier, himself, had just 33 points in his 75-game 18-year-old season in 1979-80 (despite teammate and fellow-18-year-old Wayne Gretzky scoring 137). Everyone knows how well that worked out.
Admittedly, Galchenyuk, like Draisaitl, has a long way to go before accomplishing all Messier has in his Hall-of-Fame career. In Galchenyuk’s case specifically, his physicality is a work in progress, with just eight hits credited to him thus far this season.
That’s just 111 off the league lead (Matt Martin) and two better than teammate Alexander Semin, who has been criticized for, among other things, a lack of engagement… and has missed a total of 10 games due to injury or as a healthy scratch.
Nevertheless, where Galchenyuk might lay fewer hits than, well, everyone excluding Semin, if only turning him into a full-time center this year was the team’s way of easing him into his required defensive responsibilities as a potential No.1 pivot, it has worked to near-perfection.
According to stats from Andrew Berkshire at Sportsnet, the number of his successful defensive plays is far and away better than that of the average Hab…
The Complete Package
All this is ignoring the obvious, his scoring ability, which is being showcased more and more these days, with five goals in his last four games, including one game-winning goal against the New York Islanders, one critical game-tying goal against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and two against the Devils the next night, during the second half of the two teams’ home-and-home series.
Perhaps more importantly? Two of his last three goals have come off assists from Max Pacioretty, who temporarily served as his left-winger last season when playing on the top line and who will likely become his permanent one sometime in the not-too-distant future.
That part is much less in doubt now than it ever was, even including immediately after he was drafted when hopes were high, the honeymoon period was still fresh, he could literally do no wrong having not yet played and he was widely hailed as the team’s future legitimate No. 1 center that Montreal has been waiting for, forever.
He now has 18 points in 25 games, putting him on pace for nearly 60 this season. So, if he continues on the same torrid pace he’s been on recently, he’ll be arriving soon enough.
Habs fans are probably tired of being patient at this point. It’s however justified here considering Galchenyuk’s still incredibly young… not to mention the old adage about the quality of things coming to those who wait. Granted, good things also tend to come in small packages, and, at 6’1″, 207 pounds, Galchenyuk is also developing into that prototypical top-center size.
So, maybe “good” isn’t the right word. Truth be told, all signs point to him only getting better from here.
Update: Galchenyuk was named one of the league’s top three stars of the week as a result of his recent, hopefully-to-continue success.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.