Brendan Gallagher had been having quite the season for the Montreal Canadiens. Tied with Dale Weise behind Max Pacioretty for second in goals, and sitting second in scoring only one point behind Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec, it would be safe to say he was well on his way to a career year.
Unfortunately, he'll be shelved for an unspecified amount of time, after blocking a shot with his hand and suffering two fractures. This presents quite the conundrum for the Canadiens coaching staff, as they now need to figure out who will be taking his minutes on the top line. Whether or not they decide to promote from within to do that, they are almost guaranteed to need one more body from the farm.
He's not the only player out right now, as he's joining Devante Smith-Pelly and Torrey Mitchell. With three regular roster forwards currently on the mend, the team has little choice but to call up some reinforcements from the St. John's IceCaps, particularly if Smith Pelly and Mitchell are to miss significant time.
Bud Holloway and Sven Andrighetto are already up with the big club, so let's take a look at some of the options available in St. John's right now.
Christian Thomas: 18 GP 7G, 7A 14pts
Thomas is off to the best start of his professional career, with 14 points over 18 games. Playing alongside Daniel Carr and Michael McCarron, they have become one of the top scoring lines in the AHL with 20 goals between them so far this year. He's a big part of McCarron's breakout campaign so far.
He is a very fast player, so he fits with the Habs style of play, and has the best looking wrist shot of all the IceCaps. Another big selling feature is that he shoots right, so he is a logical replacement for Gallagher on the roster. The only question is whether his waiver eligible status keeps the team from bringing him up.
Doesn't Require Waivers
Daniel Carr: 18GP 5G, 7A 12pts
Carr was last year's standout player with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He isn't lighting the ice on fire with his play this season, but he's been dependable and consistent. A free agent signing out of the NCAA, few could have confidently predicted his ascension, but he's been very impressive since the Canadiens picked him up.
He plays a solid 200-foot game, so he's a guy that can be used almost anywhere in the lineup. I don't know if he's capable of lining up on the right side as might be necessary, but he's been very good in the AHL, and there is plenty of reason to believe he could succeed at the NHL level as well.
Charles Hudon: 18GP 7G,7A 14pts
Last season's star rookie is primed and ready to break into the NHL this season, and could have an instantaneous impact. Hudon is a serious five-tool prospect in the AHL, with phenomenal offensive instincts, good skating, great defensive prowess, a good shot, and the ability to drive scoring on any line.
He topped out at 57 points in his rookie year, and will likely match that same plateau this season. With his well-rounded skillset, he could slot in almost anywhere in the lineup. He is a natural centre, but if the Canadiens want to replace some of Gallagher's scoring, Hudon is a very intriguing option.
Michael McCarron: 18GP 8G 9A 17pts
The gargantuan rookie forward is proving all of his doubters wrong this season. He's nearly playing at a point per game pace, and he's one of the highest scoring rookies in the entire AHL.
He's played a very simple game this year, using his large frame to drive the net and create traffic to open scoring chances. There aren't a whole lot of people who can dislodge the 6'6'' forward from the front of the net, and he uses this advantage to earn a lot of high danger scoring chances.
It is basically impossible to replace what Gallagher brings to the team straight-up. That said, they do have some decent options on the farm that could come up and have an impact. Some of these players will be looking at a significant opportunity to stick in the NHL, so they'll have every reason to work hard.
Deciding who exactly gets Gallagher's spot on the top line will likely be the hardest part. It is hard to say if the coaching staff would be willing to put that kind of responsibility on a youngster from the farm. In any case, figuring out how to fill that void will be no easy task.