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Canadiens 2016 Top 25 Under 25: #2 Brendan Gallagher

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For the third consecutive year, Brendan Gallagher takes the second spot on our list.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

With the 147th overall pick in any given draft, the chances of drafting a future NHL player are slim. The chances of drafting a future top-six player are even slimmer. The chances of drafting one of the top-10 right wingers in the league? Almost zero.

Except if you held that pick for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

The Canadiens did, and they selected Brendan Gallagher, which in hindsight turned out to be absolute highway robbery. He nearly made the team in his first go at training camp, quickly showing the organization and the fan base that there might be something there.

He burst onto the scene with the Hamilton Bulldogs during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, scoring 20 points through 36 games. That would be it for him in the AHL, as he then became a permanent roster player for the Canadiens, and a productive one at that.

He is currently on a streak of three consecutive 40-plus point seasons, last year scoring exactly 40 in only 53 games. Had he not been one of the victims of the injury crisis last year, he was on pace for over 60 points. He has easily cemented himself a position in the Canadiens top-six, and endeared himself to every single Canadiens fan thanks to his relentless style of play.

Most have him penciled in to start the year on the right of Alex Galchenyuk, opposite Max Pacioretty as the top line in Montreal. Wherever he lines up, the Canadiens will be very happy to have him back and in good health, as his 29 missed games last year were arguably the biggest loss for the team other than the ones missed by Carey Price.

Votes

Last year, Gallagher only got one first place vote, and this year he's up to three. Not enough for him to usurp the next player we'll profile (who I won't name, although you should probably be able to figure out), but it's clear that he has been proving his value on an ongoing basis, as he's the straw that stirs every single line he's placed on. If a line is struggling, Gallagher is the answer.

Top 25 Under 25 History

2010: 24th 2011:14th 2012: 7th 2013: 5th 2014: 2nd 2015: 2nd

Gallagher is the only player we'll be profiling this year that has been on our list every single year since the inaugural edition back in 2010. As you can see, he constantly moved up the ranks as he continually proved that he was worth much more than the 147th pick.

Strengths

In case you haven't noticed, Gallagher likes to go to the net. A lot. He plays like he's in the body of Michael McCarron, and spends a lot of time in that high percentage area right by the crease. Call them dirty goals, they're still one on the board, and Gallagher has no problem putting them up there.

He's also a high volume shooter. In a typical 82-game season, the only player who will put up more shots than him is Max Pacioretty. That combined with where he takes the bulk of his shots makes him a serious scoring threat. He's got great hands, so if you put the puck near him in the dirty areas, he'll get it going towards the net.

He is deployed in an offensive role, but his possession numbers are extremely good, so it is justified. At even-strength, he posted a 55.9% Corsi For last year, good for +5.7% relative to his teammates. He was tied with Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk for the team lead in terms of points per 60 minutes played at 2.07.

And it may interest you to know that 2.07 points per 60 minutes was good for seventh in the entire NHL among right wingers. So yes, you can easily argue that he is legitimately a top-10 right winger in the entire NHL right now. He's extremely good, and far too underrated.

Weaknesses

It's pretty hard to find any flaws in his game. Usually something about size gets brought up, but by now he's pretty much put to bed any concerns on that front. Some still believe that his style of play will prevent him from having a very long career in the NHL, but until last year he never really missed any significant time to injury. Even then, those injuries were freak accidents that had nothing to do with his style of play.

I think he could do with a little better positioning in the defensive zone, but since he's generally deployed in an offensive role, he doesn't often have to contend with tough minutes. Whenever he has, it is usually with the stalwart presence of Tomas Plekanec, so his limitations there are mitigated.

Projection

How do you project a player that is already an elite top-line right winger in the NHL? I have been saying for years that it is virtually impossible to put a ceiling on him, and that still holds true. He has proven that he's one of the best right wingers in the game, and now we just get to see how he fares throughout his prime.

He could be a 30-goal scorer, and in fact was on pace for around 29 last year if not for the injuries. With the work ethic that he brings, you simply cannot look at him and say that he has peaked. I suppose that you could, but then you'd just be one more doubter to add to the list of those who he has silenced in his career.

The crazy thing is that they have him locked down for five more seasons at the ridiculous bargain price of $3.75 million AAV. I don't pull punches when Marc Bergevin makes a move I don't like, but you absolutely have to commend him for that deal. It is easily one of the best contracts in the NHL right now.

Where to use him next year is, however, a very interesting topic. I think that he's the favourite to skate with Pacioretty and Galchenyuk, but with the addition of Alexander Radulov, it is possible that the newcomer gets that spot to start. If that happens, Gallagher has excellent chemistry with Plekanec, so he'll be equally dangerous if used on the second trio with him, and whoever wins the seemingly open left wing spot there.

One thing is for sure; wherever Gallagher gets used, he will yet again be a thorn in the side of opposing goaltenders.