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Adapting to change

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – At wing? At center? Where will Alex Galchenyuk play in 2015-16? That’s the question everyone is asking, except the man himself.

In 2014-15, the Canadiens’ young gun continued adapting to the NHL game after making the jump directly to the pros from the Junior ranks following the 2012 NHL Draft. Having spent the majority of his professional career to date playing on the wing, Galchenyuk tackled the pivot position on several occasions last season, centering a line that also included Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher for just over 10 games about half-way through the year.

“If you put me at center, I’ll play center. No matter how many times you ask me this question, at the end of the day, if you put me at center, I have to play center. I have to be the best I can be at that position,” offered Galchenyuk at the close of the 2014-15 campaign. “If I’m on wing, I have to help the team win on the wing. To be honest, it’s as simple as that.”

Unfortunately, Galchenyuk’s move to center didn’t necessarily yield the results head coach Michel Therrien was hoping for. That’s why Therrien decided to put him back on the wing come game No. 41, flanked by David Desharnais at center. That proved to be a good move, as Galchenyuk responded with goals in each of the next three games.

“At that point of the year, I think it was a little bit of a different situation. I think I had struggled a little bit offensively for a couple of games. The coach wanted to put a different lineup out there and he thought it would get me going,” explained Galchenyuk. “It was a good situation to put me with Davey because he’s a good passer and he tried to get me going on the wing. I thought it was a great opportunity for myself. It definitely worked, but to be honest, I felt comfortable playing at center, too. I like to play that position also. Time will tell where I’ll be, but I have to be prepared and prepare myself well for the upcoming season to be focused. I know I can help the team win.”

That’s exactly what Galchenyuk did this season by scoring 20 goals, thereby becoming the first player aged 21 or younger to hit that mark since Valeri Bure and Saku Koivu accomplished the feat in 1995-96.

“There are a lot of things I can think about. I think scoring 20 goals is a pretty good accomplishment as a young player. I definitely felt more comfortable and more confident playing the game and understanding the game,” mentioned Galchenyuk, who will be a restricted free agent come July 1st. “Having that experience in the playoffs is always huge, being a young player. There are a lot of things to remember.”

And, it’s armed with a 20-goal campaign and 46 points in 82 games that the Milwaukee, WI native comes to the bargaining table during the offseason. For now, Galchenyuk’s work is done. He’s just waiting for the phone to ring in the not so distant future.

“To be honest, I didn’t quite fully think about it yet. I have to sit down with my agents and talk with them. My play is done; it’s what they’re going to do and they want to negotiate,” explained Galchenyuk. “I really love Montreal. I love to be here and it’s a lot of fun playing here. We’ll see what happens.”

And, while his agent works with general manager Marc Bergevin on a new deal, Galchenyuk will make the most of his summer to prepare for the upcoming campaign.

“I’ll work on every aspect of the game, offensively and defensively, because I think I still have a lot of potential and I can still fill out my body,” concluded Galchenyuk. “There’s still a lot to learn for me. I’m still really young. I’m excited for this offseason. I’ll get a little rest and I can’t wait to get started next training camp.”

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.

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