The road to the NHL for T.J. Galiardi has been an unconventional one, but he managed to skate his way onto the Avalanche bench at end of last season and is contending for a spot on the roster this year.
Galiardi attended Dartmouth College for the 2006-07 season where he totaled 31 points in 33 games for the Big Green and was named to the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team.
On June 23, 2007, Galiardi’s hard work paid off as he was selected in the second round (55th overall) at the NHL Entry Draft by Colorado.
The following season, he played for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League, finishing with 70 points and a league-best 24 points in the playoffs.
After a successful year in Calgary, Galiardi had the opportunity to move to the next level, but he had to face a tremendous challenge before his professional career could begin.
“I broke my ankle the summer leading into my first pro year,” he said. “I pretty much had to relearn how to skate. The first 20 or so games in the AHL were pretty tough for me, I think more just because I had to figure out the pace and everything and get used to my ankle, but once I did it was a lot easier.”
Galiardi played the 2008-09 season for Lake Erie under then head coach Joe Sacco. After 66 games with the Monsters, he was called up to play with the Avalanche. That makes four teams in three seasons, all before his 21st birthday.
Galiardi made his NHL debut on March 19, 2009 against Edmonton.
“The first game was quite a whirlwind. We ended up losing 8-1, but it was so unbelievable just playing in the NHL. It’s your dreams come true.”
At just 20-years-old, the young forward was skating alongside veterans he looked up to during his young career.
“My first game, I was playing with Milan Hejduk
,” he said. “You watch those guys growing up, and then you get to hang out with them, create a friendship and chemistry on the ice. You can’t even explain. It’s unbelievable.”
In just over a week, Galiardi scored his first NHL goal. In the first period of a March 27 match-up against Vancouver, he scored on a wrist shot set up by Ian Laperierre and Scott Hannan. It was Colorado’s only goal in the 4-1 loss.
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling, and probably one of the best feelings of my life,” he said with a vivid memory of the goal.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Calgary native then recorded his first multi-goal game against the Canucks on April 5. He scored a goal in both the first and third period to help the Avalanche to a 4-1 win.
Galiardi finished the season with the Avalanche with three goals and an assist in 11 games. His four points were second most on the team during that time.
“You really appreciate your coaches after you go up to the NHL and the transition is not that hard and you fit in,” Galiardi said. “I think that was the best thing about Coach Sacco and Sylvain Lefebvre is just once I got to the NHL I was ready because of them.”
The rookie’s goal now is to follow the new Avalanche head coach Sacco and assistant coach Lefebvre to the NHL and contribute to the team’s success throughout the season.
“I think just the biggest goal is to be here the whole year, right away,” Galiardi said. “Then after that, I want to just make an impact and help the team win and hopefully help this organization get back to where they should be.”