MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens will be faced with a decision on whether or not to send Alex Galchenyuk back to his junior team or to keep him in the NHL all season. And with every game he plays, the rookie makes a stronger and stronger case for himself.
Galchenyuk collected two assists in Sunday's night's 4-3 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils, displaying an increasing degree of poise with the puck and comfort on the ice as the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft makes a bid to stay in Montreal this season.
Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal in his second game on Tuesday, giving him three points in his last three games.
The Canadiens next game at home to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday will be Galchenyuk's fifth this season, which is the limit before his entry level contract kicks in. The Canadiens play again Wednesday night in Ottawa, so a decision on his future will need to be made immediately after the game against Winnipeg.
"We have to make a decision this week, so we'll let you know soon enough," Therrien said, before bursting out laughing. "You're dying to know, aren't you?"
Yes, coach, the whole city and hockey fans around the world are dying to know.
Galchenyuk himself is trying his best not to think about the looming decision, fending off any questions on the subject as the day draws nearer.
But one person who left the Bell Centre rather impressed with the 18-year-old Sunday was Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
"Pretty skilled kid for his age, the way he plays, the way he skates," Brodeur said. "He made that great pass on the first goal, and after that in the third he deked my defenseman and kind of shoveled it over the net. There's not many 18-year-olds who have the patience to make moves like that. It's pretty impressive."
The Canadiens received some bad news Saturday when Max Pacioretty underwent an emergency appendectomy, and the anticipated recovery time for the team's top line left wing is three to four weeks. Many have assumed Pacioretty's injury could lead the Canadiens to keep Galchenyuk for the season, but Therrien made it clear the team's decision will in no way be influenced by short-term concerns.
"This [decision] is going to be independent," Therrien said. "I'm not thinking about two or three weeks down the road, a decision will be made [based on] this year and next year and two years from now. We need to really concentrate on developing young players, this is crucial at this age. But we like the way he's handled himself on the ice and off the ice as well."