Remember when Gallagher was left until the fifth round in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft? Remember when he was drafted and the majority of scouts said he would never make the NHL due to his size? Brendan Gallagher's rookie season was essentially him beating back his detractors with a pipe.
Gallagher produced over three points per 60 minutes at even-strength (7th in the NHL), and 11.95 shots per 60 minutes (2nd in the NHL). He's a goal machine at just 21 years old, and he scores from the dirty areas. Gallagher's play earned him a nomination for rookie of the year, and endeared him to Habs fans in a way that few rookies have ever achieved.
But at the same time, Gallagher was used in a purely offensive role last season, and as he grows as a player, more will be asked of him. How will Gallagher respond to playing tougher minutes than last year?
In the following graph, the blue line is Gallagher's even-strength Fenwick percentage in 2013, the red line is his team's even-strength Fenwick percentage without him on the ice, and the green line is Gallagher's offensive zone start percentage, giving us insight into his usage and role. All statistics are at even strength, and all are rolling ten-game averages. What this means is that aside from the first 10 points in the graph, every point represents a 10 game sample, giving us a better grasp of trends.
With all that information on one graph, it can look a little messy and be tough to decipher, so I've included trend lines for each statistic. To understand the trend lines, blue turns into black, red turns into yellow, and green turns into purple. The x-axis is simply the games to represent time, and the y-axis is the percentage in decimal form, and the placement of the y-axis is the beginning of the 2013 season.
Unlike Alex Galchenyuk, Gallagher was never tried out in tough minutes last year, with his offensive zone starts sticking between 60 and 70% after his first few games of the season. He also struggled a bit as he entered the league, but hit his stride permanently around the 10 game mark.
From then on, Gallagher not only filled nets, but dominated possession to a degree I don't think I've seen from a rookie not named P.K. Subban. He was consistently ahead of the rest of the team, while he wasn't on the ice as well, though part of that was playing a large portion of the year with Max Pacioretty.
The interesting part of this graph is the incremental growth of Gallagher's performance. Early in the year he was good, but his role was highly tailored to get a great performance out of him. The longer he played, the more his Fenwick caught his zone starts, a great sign that eventually he could play in tougher minutes.
Gallagher's propensity for shooting from very close to the net should keep his shooting percentage around where it was last season, and increased time on the powerplay will also see a bump in his goalscoring. Assuming that Gallagher can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, a 30-goal, 50-point season is very much in the cards.