MONTREAL – The Habs’ second-year right winger turned 22 on May 6th. In all aspects of the game, he’s quality you can see.
Listed at five-foot-nine, Brendan Gallagher has not grown much height-wise since turning pro in the fall of 2012. However, that would be overlooking the tremendous strides he has taken in terms of his on-ice development.
Coming off 280 points in 244 games for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Gallagher scored 20 points in 36 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs before making the Canadiens out of training camp following the 2012 NHL lockout. Cutting his teeth on a secondary scoring line alongside Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk in the first ten games of the season, the Edmonton native was then promoted to the Habs’ top offensive unit. Lining up on the starboard side of Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, he would finish the 48-game regular season with a team-high 15 goal, tied with Pacioretty.
The 2013-14 season, his second in the league, would be more of the same. After spending time with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk to start the campaign, Gallagher was reunited with Pacioretty and helped the American power to a career-best 39-goal season. For his part, the sophomore scored 19 goals and 22 assists to boost his career totals. Late in the season, the scrappy forward saw his role evolve as a member of the team’s top two-way line, centered by veteran Tomas Plekanec. Formerly used to starting most of his shifts deep in the offensive zone, Gallagher now plays some of the toughest minutes for his team against the opposing first line.
Offensively speaking, the former fifth-round pick can do it all. Not only can he finish a scoring play at a similar rate as Stephane Richer at the same age, but he has also demonstrated a rare ability to drive the play in the right direction, consistently emerging as one of the best of his team at generating a positive shot differential throughout the season and boosting the puck possession metrics of any forward line he finds himself on.
Though Gallagher, speedy and skilled, is by no means a physically imposing player, his greatest asset is his exceptional toughness. He intimidates opposing defensemen with his ability to fight through their checks and emerge with the puck. Beyond putting up 69 points in 125 regular season games and eight points in 11 playoff matchups so far, Gallagher has also drawn 62 minor penalties, 16 more than he has taken. This differential accounts for another three goals in the Canadiens’ favour.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.