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Canadiens Winger Alex Galchenyuk Could Be Primed For A Breakout Season

Sean Hartnett

Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.

Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk appears ready to take the next forward step in his promising career. The highly-skilled 20-year-old has an impressive package of skills, but saw his production dip in an injury-hit sophomore season.

Last season, Galchenyuk scored 13 goals and recorded 18 assists for 31 points in 65 regular season games. His plus-minus was a dreadful -12. It was quite a drop-off a rookie season where Galchenyuk scored 27 points in 48 games and was a plus-14.

Despite a tough sophomore campaign, the Belarusian-American’s numbers averaged over 60 minutes during his teenage years compare favorably to Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene and Patrick Kane.

Player Goals per 60 Points per 60
Stamkos 0.95 2.08
Duchene 0.85 1.98
Galchenyuk 0.78 1.98
Kane 0.55 1.97

Galchenyuk has captivated Habs fans with his outstanding puck skills and impressive creativity. This season, Galchenyuk could make the switch to center.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently spoke at length with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. During the interview, Bergevin revealed that the Habs will start training camp with Galchenyuk at center.

“We will start him in training camp at center,” Bergevin told McKenzie. “We want to see where he’s at. We know sometimes it’s harder for a young player to player center in the NHL, especially down low. But with two years under his belt, we want to evaluate where he’s at in the center position and then we’ll make a decision.”

The move could really pay off for the Habs given that Galchenyuk is a natural center with playmaking aptitude and outstanding vision. At center, Galchenyuk could showcase the puckhandling skills that earned him comparisons to Anze Kopitar prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.

Galchenyuk must add more bulk to his 6-foot-1 frame and needs to improve his defensive acumen to be able to fully handle all the duties asked of him at center.

The 20-year-old is renowned for his highly-competitive spirit and willingness to improve. There might be a few defensive hiccups along the way, but Galchenyuk’s driven nature means that he’ll figure out how to smooth over his mistakes faster than most players his age.

Montreal is currently very deep at center. Should Galchenyuk move to center full-time, it means that David Desharnais is likely to move to the wing.

Should the Habs stick with the decision to move him to center, Galchenyuk could be primed for a breakout season. Sooner rather than later, he could raise his game toward becoming a frontline playmaking forward in this league.