MONTREAL – The final day of the Canadiens’ training camp came complete with some great news for two of the team’s prospects.
The last day of camp can mean either a lot of disappointment or a lot of excitement for young players gunning for a spot in the lineup. While the Habs said goodbye to seven prospects Friday morning, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Mike Blunden all got tapped to stay with the team as the Canadiens and the NHL get set to officially kick off the 2012-13 season on Saturday.
In case you were wondering – they were more than a little happy with the news.
“It’s crazy what’s happened to me in the last couple of months,” marveled Galchenyuk, following the team’s morning skate. “I played well in Sarnia, I won the gold medal at the World Juniors and now I know I’ll play my first NHL game tomorrow. There’s no better feeling than this one. They told me when I first came here not to put any pressure on myself and to just enjoy the experience. That’s what I did and I had a pretty good camp.”
After being sidelined for nearly the entire 2011-12 season after undergoing knee surgery, the Canadiens’ third-overall pick seemed bent on proving he hadn’t missed a beat upon his return. After lighting up the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, scoring 27 goals and 34 assists for a whopping 61 points in 33 games, Galchenyuk parlayed his success through to the gold medal game at the Word Junior Championships, picking up eight points along the way.
“I think I was one of the last guys to go into the office [this morning],” continued Galchenyuk, recounting the emotions of that morning. “I saw that some guys who had gone in before me started packing their bags when they got out and I got even more nervous at my stall. Gally went in before me and when he came out he told me that we made the team.”
Following his announcement that the Habs’ first-round pick would indeed be in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Leafs, head coach Michel Therrien took a moment to shine a spotlight on the progress of the team’s youngest player.
“Everything was decided over the course of the week. When we started training camp, we went into it with an open mind. As the week went on and the more we saw of how he was handling himself, the clearer it became to everyone that he deserved to be here,” expressed Therrien, who would only confirm Galchenyuk’s presence for the season opener, but not beyond.
|Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk |
“There is a certain tempo at training camp that’s a little bit different. When the season starts tomorrow, that tempo will change,” he added. “There’s a learning process that has to go along with those changes and we’ll give him the chance to experience that.”
Making progress in leaps and bounds of his own after standing out in last year’s training camp, Gallagher got off to a quick start in his first season with the Bulldogs, ranking second on the team’s scoring ladder with 10 goals and 10 assists.
“Gallagher has an incredible work ethic. He’s always on the puck, always driving the net. He’s a great teammate and a great person who always has a smile on his face,” praised Therrien, who did not confirm his place in the lineup, despite passing him through the final cut. “We’re happy to have him with us now, but he’s still a young player and we’re taking his development into account. He definitely deserves to be part of our roster of 23 players.”
Content with the chance to stay on with the Canadiens, Gallagher is clearly employing the same strategy moving forward that got him where he is.
“They obviously saw something that they felt would help the team, so if I end up getting an opportunity to be in the lineup, it’s going to be my job to take advantage of it the best I can. I just want to keep proving myself to them and show I can be a useful player for this team,” shared Gallagher. “I’m really just trying to take this one day at a time. Every time I come to the rink with a chance to play it’s obviously a good day for me and I just want to try to stay here as long as I can.”
With both players now officially part of the team moving into the regular season, the only question left to finally answer for the two prospects is who gets to be called Gally and who has to go back to the nickname drawing board.
“I think I’m taking it in the end! I’m pretty happy about that,” grinned Gallagher. “I probably won’t win too many battles against him, so I’ll take this one.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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