PITTSBURGH – Alex Galchenyuk wants to play in Montreal as soon as this coming season after being selected Friday by the Canadiens with the third pick of the NHL Draft -- and he won't be wasting any time in order to make it happen.
"I just got drafted by the Montreal Canadiens; there's no vacations anymore," Galchenyuk said. "I'll be in the gym in a couple of days."
In spite of his lack of playing time, Galchenyuk was still the fourth-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. His eye-opening performance in physical testing at the NHL Scouting Combine appeared to put to rest many fears regarding his knee.
"I knew what kind of skill I bring, what kind of player I am. Definitely the scouts knew what kind of player I am," Galchenyuk said. "I kept working hard, I played a couple of games at the end of the year and showed what I'm capable of doing, I went to the combine and showed my knee's 100 percent. I knew there were going to be no issues."
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and director of scouting Trevor Timmins certainly had no doubts about Galchenyuk's potential.
"He's a big center with vision and character," Bergevin said. "He has everything we're looking for in a player."
A big center is what every NHL team is looking for, but it was a particular need for the Canadiens – both with the big club and in their system. When asked how difficult it is to acquire a player like that through a trade or in free agency, Bergevin said, "It's practically impossible."
Added Timmons: "He was a player we coveted. We love his talent, and to go along with that talent he's passionate, committed and determined not just to be an NHL player, but be one of the best NHL players."
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"He assured me the surgery was successful, the knee was tight and we can select the player based on his upside," Timmins said.
Galchenyuk surely won't have trouble adjusting to Montreal's cosmopolitan feel, and the predominance of the French language in the city shouldn't be difficult for him. Galchenyuk speaks his native Russian, English, Italian and German, as he grew up all over the world following his father Alexander's pro hockey career.
He says he did speak French as a child while his father played in Switzerland, but that he's since forgotten the language.
"I guess I'm going to start French classes in a couple of days," Galchenyuk said.
On Thursday, Bergevin said that after skill, the No. 2 quality he looks for in a player is character and drive.
"Hockey has to mean the world to him," he said.
When asked how he became convinced that Galchenyuk was that guy, Bergevin said it was through nothing he said.
"It was the look in his eyes," Bergevin said. "Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player."
Galchenyuk returned to North America and moved to Chicago with his family when he was 15 so he could be eligible for the Ontario Hockey League draft as a domestic player, and he devoted practically all his time there to hockey while going to school online.
That passion has paid off, and Galchenyuk is eager to begin this next leg in his hockey journey.
"I just love to play hockey, and I'll love to play hockey for the Montreal Canadiens -- hopefully in the near future," he said. "I just can't wait."