One of the most intriguing names near the top of the NHL Draft rankings is Sarnia Sting center Alex Galchenyuk, the Russian-American born in Milwaukee and who played alongside Nail Yakupov for a couple of seasons.
Galchenyuk seems to be the wild card among all the projected top picks, mainly due to a knee injury he suffered early in the 2011-12 season. He missed all but two regular-season games, but returned in time for the OHL playoffs. We've spoken to several people this week who said that had Galchenyuk played the entire season, he would stand a strong chance of being the No. 1 overall pick tonight at CONSOL Energy Center.
"Gally" and Yakupov are good friends and play off each other well, especially when the cameras are around. NHL Central Scouting has compared Galchenyuk's style of play to Blackhawks sniper Marian Hossa -- a strong, two-way player who can change a game in an instant.
We spent some time with Galchenyuk and had a pretty good conversation. Read his comments below, and check out the video courtesy of JacketsTV.
On the chances of him playing in the KHL:
"I'm not. There's not a chance I'll go there. I don't want to play there, I want to play in the NHL and have since I was a little kid. Everyone keeps asking me that question."
Have you had to deal with those questions because of your family name?
"A little bit. Obviously, a lot of people have asked me why I chose (to represent the U.S.) when my whole family is Russian. Like I said before, I just want to play for USA Hockey and I consider myself an American even if my parents are Russian. I was born in the States, I love the country and I want to play for them."
|Galchenyuk during a 2010-11 game with the Sarnia Sting (OHL). |
On assuring teams about the recovery from his knee injury:
"I did a lot of rehab and working hard in the gym. I just want to make sure the teams know that they're confident in drafting me. I think the teams that are (serious about drafting him) are confident in my knee. Whatever team I land with, when I go see the doctors they're going to say the knee looks great, and good job on the rehab."
What do you like to do away from the rink?
"I like to play XBox. Call of Duty. I'm pretty good. Sometimes go to movies...there's not a lot of things to do in Sarnia."
What part of your game is the best, in your mind?
"I think just my skillset. I see the ice and make plays in tough situations, and my passion for the game."
What do you need to work on to become an elite NHL player?
"I'm only 18 years old, and there are men playing (in the NHL). I want to become an overall, complete player and work on the small details like face-offs, and just stronger, faster, quicker...work on my strengths, too."