Any other year, T.J. Galiardi might be grabbing a few more headlines. Typically, when an NHL rookie steps into the lineup and plays a significant role in his club’s success, it’s considered a very newsworthy story.
But it hasn’t been a typical year in Denver. The Avalanche’s roster has been injected with a number of high-profile rookies and other talented young players – including Matt Duchene
, Ryan O’Reilly and Chris Stewart - who have been receiving top billing for most of the season. Factor in the contributions of another pair of rookies, defenseman Ryan Wilson
and forward Brandon Yip, and it’s easy to see how Galiardi has been flying under the radar just a tad.
Galiardi doesn’t mind that one bit. In fact, he considers it the best possible situation for his career, as he’s receiving a chance to contribute at the NHL level sooner than some might have expected.
“I’m happy to fly under the radar and help the team in any way I can,” said Galiardi. “It doesn’t matter to me who gets the accolades as long as the team keeps winning. I just want to be able to grow with the team and organization.”
Astute fans have recognized Galiardi for his responsible two-way play. He’s been a fixture on the Avalanche’s top penalty-killing unit and has held his own defensively against some of the top forwards in the league.
However, don’t make the mistake of trying to pigeonhole Galiardi as simply a defensive specialist. Following a high-scoring amateur career that included stints at Dartmouth College and with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, the Calgary native is currently tied for eighth among rookie scorers with 18 points (6g/12a) in 39 contests.
He’s also shown a knack for scoring some timely goals. Galiardi netted the game-winner with 58 seconds remaining in the Avalanche’s 3-2 win over Columbus on Jan. 2 and, more recently, netted the deciding goal in a 3-1 victory over New Jersey this past Saturday.
“It’s been really fun this year, with the team obviously exceeding expectations,” said Galiardi. “Personally it’s been a fun year for me too. I just want to help the team any way I can and it’s exciting when you’re winning.”
Galiardi boasts a hockey repertoire that every coach in the NHL covets from his young players. Boasting a sort of “Swiss Army knife” skill set, Galiardi has played all three forward positions and has seen action on both the Avalanche’s scoring and checking lines this season, adjusting his game seamlessly. Averaging nearly 17 minutes per game overall, the rookie ranks fourth among NHL forwards in short-handed ice time, averaging 3:13 per game.
The 21-year-old is officially in the midst of his rookie season, but he had a bit of a head start on some of his counterparts. The forward saw action in 11 games at the tail end of the 2008-09 season after being recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters – something he credits for his success this year.
“It was huge. It got rid of my nerves and let me get to know some of the guys,” said Galiardi. “I think being comfortable in the room is really huge for the way you play on the ice, just because you know the guys and they know what to expect from you. If you don’t bring it, they’re going to hold you accountable. Getting called up last year was perfect for me.”