Alex Galchenyuk is, in the words of popstar Taylor Swift, feeling 22.
In his first season ever as a full-time centre, the 22-year-old, 6-foot-2-inch, 205 pound American/Russian hybrid has managed to get a point in every game he has played this season. That’s 22 points in 22 games, and has looked impressive doing so every step of the way.
His latest feat occurred Saturday night at the Joe Louis Arena, finishing the game off in overtime against the Red Wings by burying a spectacular pass by Alexander Radulov.
Since his amazing end to the 2015-16 campaign, where he recorded 30 goals, the third overall pick has been showing both fans and management that he can be the kind of player they envisioned when he was selected in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, Galchenyuk has become more consistent. He has been held off of the score sheet entirely just four times this season. With some veterans struggling to score right now, it’s comforting to know that Galchenyuk will factor into the offense on most nights.
Galchenyuk is also finding different ways to score. He’s starting to really trust his lethal one-timer, and shots that were missing the net earlier in his career are starting to find the twine now. We’ve seen him be his usual shifty self, using a wide arsenal of moves to make defenders look silly, but he’s also shown that he can pick his spots and get himself into a position to score. His goals against the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs these last two Saturday nights have been perfect examples of this.
Another reason, and it’s a big one, is due to his chemistry with Radulov. Since paired, the two have shown that they can be a force to be reckoned with throughout the league. They really seem to feed off of each other on the ice, combining to produce exceptional looking goals. Along with speedy winger Paul Byron, the trio has essentially carried the offense for the Canadiens. It seems like Radulov enjoys his role as a mentor and his style of play is really making an impact on the Canadiens’ young centre.
Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk have played 12 games on the same line:
Radulov: 2 G, 10 A, 12 pts
Galchenyuk: 7 G, 8 A, 15 pts
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) November 27, 2016
That’s not to say Galchenyuk doesn’t have flaws in his game. His face-off ability certainly needs work, currently sitting at a woeful 39.2 per cent. Also his defensive game could use some improvement. But these things should start to improve as Galchenyuk continues to play the position. Now that he’s getting full-time centre duties, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to improve by playing against other teams’ top talent.
Once his defensive responsibilities start to improve, coach Michel Therrien might come around on his usage as well. Despite Galchenyuk’s great start, he has been used more sparingly than some fans would like. Currently, his average time on ice is 15:58.
Against the Hurricanes on Thursday, Galchenyuk played just 14:03, tied for a season slow in ice-time. Therrien certainly expects all of his players to be accountable defensively but one hopes that Galchenyuk’s offensive pace will force the coach’s hand into playing him more.
In the last year of his two-year contract, Galchenyuk will be seeking a significant raise next year from his current average annual value (AAV) of $2.8 million ($3.1 million salary.) General Manager Marc Bergevin will be looking to lock him up long term sooner rather than later, hopefully along with his newfound linemate, Radulov. If the trend of their terrific play continues, they could potentially form a formidable offensive duo for the Habs for years to come. Fans would certainly welcome the idea.
If Galchenyuk’s crest-kissing goal celebration on Saturday is any indication of his feelings about the organization, he would feel the same way.
The CH needs a cigarette after this Galchenyuk kiss. pic.twitter.com/udWejduMIq
— Paul Campbell ❄️ (@WayToGoPaul) November 27, 2016