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2015-2016 Montreal Canadiens Season Preview: Alex Galchenyuk

The dynamic youngster will finally play at centre, but will the switch boost his offensive prowess?

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Galchenyuk was drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens a mere three years ago. Some were surprised that the scouting staff took Galchenyuk where they did as it was their highest draft pick in over 30 years. But at the time, Trevor Timmins and the scouting staff agreed that Galchenyuk had the potential to be the answer to at least some of the Canadiens' offensive woes.

A young star in his own right, Galchenyuk has come a long way from his rookie season, though many fans argue that he has yet to be utilized properly in order for him to reach his full potential.

Well, my friends, the wait is over. During the Montreal Canadiens' annual charity golf tournament this summer, GM Marc Bergevin announced that Galchenyuk would be playing at centre this season. Though this leaves fans with additional questions regarding who will be shifted to the wing and whether or not Galchenyuk has the defensive ability to take on the pressures of being a top-line centre, one can only hope that the 21-year-old holds onto the centre position that he was initially drafted to fill.

"I feel great about this, very excited. Can't wait to get started. Knowing your role, your position. I'm confident."

- Alex Galchenyuk

2014-2015 Review

Graph courtesy of Sportlogiq

As we can see from the above graph, Galchenyuk often prefers to clear the zone using his own means (passing, deking) than by the Canadiens' dump and chase system. Most fans would consider this a positive and we can see that, overall, his successful zone exits are comparable to veteran Tomas Plekanec. Perhaps the fact that Galchenyuk tends to play by his own means is linked to his poor utilization in favour of players who adhere to the system that coach Michel Therrien enforces.

As with many other players on the Habs' bench, Galchenyuk faced numerous shuffles in the line-up and rarely played with consistent line mates. Galchenyuk did play a short stint at centre this past season, flanked by Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. During that time, the trio combined for 16 points in five games and Galchenyuk scored his first career hat-trick.

Over the course of the season, Galchenyuk scored 20 goals and had 26 assists in 80 games, ranking him seventh on the team in point production. He added another goal and three assists in 12 playoff games. This was Galchenyuk's best offensive season in the NHL and he remains the highest-scoring player from his draft year.

2015-2016 Projection

galchenyuk projection

2015-16 Marcel statistical projection courtesy of Domenic GalaminiCalculation procedure

For a good portion of the off-season there was little talk of a contract extension between the Montreal Canadiens and Galchenyuk. Bergevin surprised many with the announcement at the end of July, signing Galchenyuk to a two-year, $2.8M contract.

I think most fans would agree that not only are we hoping for Galchenyuk to experience an offensive upswing at centre this season, we almost expect it after witnessing his incredible vision and creativity during his time at centre last season. Though we don't yet know who Galchenyuk will be flanked by, it should also be noted that he and newcomer, Alexander Seminhad great chemistry during the first scrimmage of training camp.

The biggest thing going for Galchenyuk continues to be his vision. Arguably one of the team's best playmakers, Galchenyuk can benefit the players around him with his awareness and ability to read the ice. If given the chance, Galchenyuk very well could slide into a first line centre position, filling a big gap in the Habs' offense. Galchenyuk also appears to have put in ample time training over the summer and has added more muscle to his already solid frame.

One thing that we do know is that this youngster will relish increased responsibility if given the opportunity. What the bulk of Galchenyuk's projection comes down to is not only his own ability, but whether or not the coaching staff trusts him enough to let him spread his wings. There are obviously several factors at play, but don't be surprised if Galchenyuk sails past the 50-point mark this season.