It's been a long time since a rookie has come onto the Canadiens roster and instantly become a top 6 forward. Brendan Gallagher seems to have accomplished this feat out of pure drive and determination. That isn't to say that Gallagher isn't talented, because he is incredibly talented.
Gallagher's quick release would be the top asset for most young players, because it is a hell of a release, but unlike many small players, like say Mike Cammalleri, Gallagher is not a pure sniper. Gallagher's game is that of a power forward. It's crazy when you think about it, but the 5 foot 9 inch, 163 point right winger seems to actually believe that he's a 6'4 220 bruiser.
Gallagher's no holds barred play is a large contributor to why he's able to be a possession driver at the age of 20. Playing with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty hasn't hurt his development either, nor has Michel Therrien sheltering him more than perhaps any other player on the team. But the results that Gallagher has given tell the story.
Looking at game by game results, it took Gallagher 10 or so games to adjust to the speed of the NHL, but since then he's taken off at a fairly consistent 60% Fenwick at even strength.
Gallagher hasn't outperformed his zone starts, but at some point you're going to get diminishing returns on those, just like you will be bound to outperform your extreme defensive assignments unless you're a completely irredeemably awful player.
The way Gallagher drives the net creates an abundance of scoring chances, which has resulted in him producing a staggering 22.57 scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time at even strength, and even more impressively, a differential of 6.571 in the positive that is a full scoring chance better than the next best player (Brandon Prust). In fact, the amount of scoring chances produced may be enough to say that his on-ice shooting percentage in the first half wasn't luck driven.
At the halfway point of the season, no player in the NHL was producing more points per 60 minutes at even strength than Brendan Gallagher. His production and underlying numbers are so fantastic for a rookie, I'm really not sure how to contextualize it.
On the powerplay Gallagher hasn't stood out so much, but he also hasn't looked out of place. His scoring chance production has been similar to that of Brian Gionta, but in the first half he couldn't get the puck to go in for him.
Brendan Gallagher is a rookie right winger being used in an exploitation, offense-only role. In this role he's performed exceptionally.
First half grade: 10/10
Gallagher being a rookie, there's no review of his last season to see how his performance has changed, but check out Bruce Peter's writeup on Gallagher from the top 25 under 25 series we did in August.