When he was selected third overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, many in the hockey world thought that had it not been for a knee injury which saw him miss most of the 2011-2012 season with the Sarnia Sting, Alex Galchenyuk would have challenged Nail Yakupov as the top prospect in that draft. Since being drafted, he has accumulated more points than his former teammate… but is that enough to be celebrating if you’re the Habs’ brass?
Although they chose to keep him in the NHL instead of returning him to his junior team, the Canadiens took their time with the young prospect, preferring developing him on the wing as opposed to overwhelming him at centre with the NHL responsibilities that come with playing that key position. He has made strides every season since, while recording a career best 20 goals and 46 points last season.
So this year, head coach Michel Therrien decided that the 21 year-old American was ready to take the next step as a NHL centre. The fact that he has recently returned to the wing is not indicative of Galchenyuk’s play but rather because of the team’s lack of quality depth on the wing for the scoring lines, as he and Lars Eller spent some time at that position.
I know that many fans like to cry wolf against Therrien and his use of Galchenyuk but no matter what they want to make us believe, Therrien is no idiot. Galchenyuk is showing flashes of his brilliance but he is rather inconsistent. He is still learning and he should continue to improve as maturity kicks in… that is if he can put some order in his lifestyle off the ice.
Often, off-ice issues with NHL players are staying away from mainstream media but it hasn’t been the case recently with Galchenyuk. The story about his outing with teammate Devante Smith-Pelly having resulted in assault charges against the young player’s girlfriend (who shall remain nameless in this article as she doesn’t deserve the exposure) has left nobody indifferent. Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens’ lawyers even felt the need to have a meeting with Galchenyuk and his lawyer to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as to what’s expected.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have paid off as a report came out a few days ago to the effect that he was out in the bars with some teammates and got into a fight in public with that girlfriend of his, and it escalated to the point where P.K. Subban took him out of the bar…
WHAT TO EXPECT
No one is denying that Galchenyuk has talent, and lots of it. What some people are starting to question is his ability to take recommendations, understand the severity and consequences of his decision making off the ice, and realizing that ultimately, it is affecting his on-ice career. He and only he has to make that realization and grow up, as did Carey Price when he was younger. Some can and will do it, others never do (see Zack Kassian).
Galchenyuk has what it takes to become an excellent first line centre. He can skate, he can shoot the puck, he can stick handle in a phone booth. Does he have what it takes between the ears? Only time will tell.
The good news however is that according to Elliott Friedman, teams have been calling Bergevin asking him if, by any chance, Galchenyuk was available, and they were told no, he isn’t. Don’t make him change his mind Chucky and grow up… for the sake of your fans, the team but mostly, for your own sake.