MONTREAL – Alex Galchenyuk has every reason to look back on the 2012-13 campaign with pride and excitement about what the future has in store.
Over the past 12 months, the 19-year-old center has added countless accomplishments to an already impressive resume, establishing himself as both a full-time NHLer and a standout on the international scene following a pair of notable performances with Team USA.
After being selected third overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the former Sarnia Sting star made the big club out of training camp, wowing Canadiens brass and onlookers alike with his trademark offensive creativity and fearlessness. In 48 regular season games for the Habs, the strong-skating pivot amassed nine goals and 27 points, while also posting a team-leading plus-14 differential and logging 12:09 of ice time per game. Galchenyuk finished tied for fifth in points among all NHL rookies, and tied for second in assists.
Like every NHL freshman, however, experiencing fluctuations in goal-production is more often the rule than the exception. After scoring his first career NHL goal in just his second game against the Panthers on Jan. 22, the Milwaukee, WI born phenom only found the net twice over the course of the next two months. Displaying the tenacity that earned him elite prospect status in the latter stages of his Junior career, Galchenyuk emerged from the scoring slump with six goals over an eight-game stretch in the month of April, helping the Canadiens clinch the northeast division title and a berth in the postseason.
Despite finding himself moved to wing for the better part of the year as part of his learning process, Galchenyuk’s overall performance has clearly impressed general manager Marc Bergevin.
“I’m very satisfied. You can’t forget that he’s still a very young player, who still had two more seasons of Junior eligibility left. He came here and he performed very well. He had a few ups and downs, but in general he did very well,” praised Bergevin during his end-of-season press conference in mid-May. “We saw his weaknesses in his own zone as a centerman, which is always a difficult position to be in. That’s normal for a young player. Eventually, the goal is to bring him to center, but as far as his development goes, he’ll be the one to determine when we’ll be making that switch [on a full-time basis].”
Having defied the odds already by earning a roster spot with the Canadiens in his late teens, compiling a stellar regular season record and showcasing veteran-like poise in his first postseason experience, a permanent transition back to his natural position will likely come sooner than later.
Like Bergevin, Max Pacioretty expressed his admiration for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship gold medalist, noting that along with fellow rookie sensation Brendan Gallagher, the pair played a monumental role in the Habs’ turnaround during the abbreviated season.
“Those are the heroes of the team, especially in a salary-capped world where guys on rookie salaries are able to step up and contribute as much as they were able to,” expressed Pacioretty. “I think that’s what all the best teams are doing now. They’re making a name for themselves through the draft and obviously we have a great front office that was able to find them and draft them, and it’s helped us out a lot.”
After registering a goal and three points in five games against the Senators during the opening round of the NHL Playoffs, Galchenyuk helped pace the United States to a podium finish at the 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championship with a pair of shootout goals – including the game-winner – in the bronze-medal game against Finland.
Capping his hockey season on both sides of the pond in style, it’s safe to say that in Galchenyuk’s case, the best is yet to come.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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