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Canadiens' Galchenyuk happy to get trial at center

by Arpon Basu

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Alex Galchenyuk admits he is happy to hear his general manager say he will start Montreal Canadiens training camp playing his natural center position, something he is looking forward to trying at the NHL level.

Alex Galchenyuk
Center - MTL
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 31
SOG: 110 | +/-: -12
But Galchenyuk is just as eager, if not more so, to justify Marc Bergevin's decision to take him with the No. 3 pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, and he hopes to do that no matter what position he plays this season.

"I think that's the main thing, why I was drafted so high, is because I have those offensive skills and I can make offensive plays," Galchenyuk said Thursday at the opening of Canadiens training camp. "So wherever I can do it the most, whether it's on the wing or at center, I think that's where the coaches feel I have the best [chance] to help the team."

Bergevin said this week in an interview with TSN that the team anticipated using Galchenyuk at center to open training camp, a revelation that led to a number of other questions when it comes to the Canadiens' depth chart. The most important one of those questions would be which of the four centers who appear to be firmly entrenched in the lineup would be forced to move to the wing to accommodate Galchenyuk?

David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and free agent signing Manny Malhotra are already on the roster and penciled in to play center, leaving no room for Galchenyuk unless one of them is shifted over.

Desharnais began his career in the NHL at right wing, and Eller played on the wing earlier in his career, but he didn't sound very enthusiastic about the possibility of moving over now that he's established his place in the middle.

"I see myself as a center. I believe management does, too," Eller said. "I don't think there's too much else to say about that."

Galchenyuk would welcome an extended look at center. He was drafted as a center from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, but has played all but a handful of games in the NHL at left wing.

"Right now I feel really confident playing on the wing. I played there two years already on the wing," Galchenyuk said. "Even for myself, I want to see where I'm at [playing] center. It's a good time to figure it out and look at it. I take it as a positive."

During his final season in Sarnia in 2012-13, Galchenyuk was moved from center to the wing and his offensive numbers took off. He admits that the defensive responsibilities at center can sometimes hinder offensive production, though in that case he said it was a matter of loading up one line to become the Sting's primary source of offense.

"Playing wing is a little different mentality," he said. "You don't think…I mean you always obviously think about defense, but you don't necessarily think about it that much. You think more offense. But I think it's a challenge for me [to play center]."

Galchenyuk's skill set appears to be ideally suited to play in the middle. He is a crafty passer with soft hands who can beat defenders one on one with his stickhandling ability, his speed or a combination of both. He also possesses a dangerous shot, something he said he plans on using more often this season.

Brendan Gallagher, who began his NHL career at the same time as Galchenyuk and has often played the opposite wing from him during the past two seasons, is eager to see what his roommate on the road can do at his natural position.

"He's so dangerous when he has the puck, it'll be interesting to see him in the middle of the ice when he can go both ways with it just how much better he can be. I'm excited to watch him," Gallagher said. "When you get a guy in the middle of the ice that can go both ways on you it makes the defense think, they get a little more flat-footed, and that opens ice for every single guy on the ice. A dangerous centerman is someone that makes it very easy to play with him. You look at a guy like Davey [Desharnais] when he comes up the ice, there's a lot of room for guys on the wall because the d-men in the middle have to respect his speed going up the middle. I think [Galchenyuk] has a little bit of that in him."

Should Galchenyuk pass his test at center in training camp, it could have a serious impact on the Canadiens' lineup this season. But he's hoping to make an impact no matter where he lines up.

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