PITTSBURGH – What do you get when you combine the skill and puck moving ability of a Russian sniper with the tenacious grit and determination of an American power forward? The Canadiens’ third-overall pick.
Born in Wisconsin but raised in arenas everywhere from Moscow to Milwaukee, Alex Galchenyuk could prove to be the perfect NHL hybrid when he eventually kicks off his career in Montreal. Touted by scouts as one of the most complete players available in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, if he hadn’t torn his ACL and missed the majority of the 2011-12 season, the 18-year-old center could have given Sarnia Sting linemate Nail Yakupov a run for first-overall.
“It’s really special. Nail deserved that to go first,” praised Galchenyuk who finished second in OHL rookie scoring to Yakupov in 2010-11. “He’s a great guy, a great person and a great hockey player. I’m just happy for him.”
A day before the draft, director of player procurement Trevor Timmins was keeping his cards close to his vest about which teenage prospect would be leaving the Consol Energy Center in a Canadiens cap and jersey. Timmins’ poker face may have thrown the media off his scent, but his bluff wasn’t working on the eventual No. 3 pick.
“I definitely had a feeling,” admitted Galchenyuk, who reinforced Timmins’ impression of him during his visit to Montreal last week. “With all the rumors, I had the feeling they might pick me but I didn’t know for sure. It’s one of the original team in the NHL. They have the most Stanley Cups; they have Hall of Famers, great heroes and great legends played there. I mean it’s just an honor to put on that jersey and be a part of that organization.”
A prolific scorer with the Sting, Galchenyuk is already drawing rave reviews from his new employers about his character, determination and work ethic. And he’s already started working on the last item left to check off on the team’s wish list.
“I guess I’ll start French classes in a couple days,” grinned the new Hab, who grew up in Moscow, Milwaukee, Madison, Berlin, Michigan, Milan, Omsk and Sierre, among other cities, during his father’s playing days. “It’s a beautiful city. It’s a lot like Europe. I’ve been there for two days. It’s a nice city. They have a great facility and I’m obviously just looking forward to being there.
“There’s always pressure everywhere,” added the 18-year-old, who has already known future teammate P.K. Subban for two years now. “I love to play hockey and hopefully I’ll play for the Montreal Canadiens in the near future. I’ll just keep working hard and see how things go.”
Galchenyuk knows that being drafted third-overall is no guarantee he’ll have a stall in the Canadiens dressing room this fall. He’s planning on using that as added motivation this summer.
“I believe in myself. I don’t know what the organization wants to do with me but I always set my goals high and my goal is to play next year and to contribute to the team,” he shared. “I know what kind of skill I bring and what kind of player I am. I just kept working hard and I played a couple of games at the end of the year. I showed what I’m capable of doing. I went to the combine to show that my knee wasn’t a concern and that there will be no issue.
“I’ve been drafted by the Montreal Canadiens,” he finished. “There are no vacations for a while.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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Best player available
Habs select Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall