Drafted third overall in 2012, Alex Galchenyuk was seen as the future of the Montreal Canadiens franchise, and for good reason. At 6’1” and 207 pounds, with the ability to create offence using his immense skill, the expectations were sky high for the young American.
For the first few years in the NHL, it seemed like he was slowly growing into the role of an offensive top-line forward.
Scoring 27 points in a lockout-shortened rookie season, his point totals kept rising, with the peak coming in 2015-16 as he set career highs in goals and points. However, injury issues, constant shifting between centre and left wing, and inconsistent deployment have hindered his development, resulting in him remaining at the left wing, seeing no progress in his offensive game over the past two seasons.
In comparison to his fellow 2012 draftees, he remains tied with Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg with 255 regular-season points. However, Forsberg has debatably been more impactful than Galchenyuk over that time considering the fewer number of games played, and the Swede took his game to a new level during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Forsberg started off a lot slower than Galchenyuk, playing his first two years predominantly in the Allsvenskan and AHL, respectively, but has been very consistent for the last four seasons, tying a career high of 64 points this year.
Morgan Rielly, Tomas Hertl, and Teuvo Teravainen follow in terms of scoring, and are also players who likely haven’t hit their ceiling, but are seen as up-and-coming talents.
The argument can be made that Galchenyuk still has the potential to be the best player from that draft class, and could live up to the hype that allowed him to be drafted so high despite missing nearly the entirety of his draft season.
This season saw Galchenyuk in a constant battle to gain the trust of head coach Claude Julien, while adapting to a rotating cast of linemates — as has been the case for most of his career. Playing all 82 games after dealing with knee injuries a season ago, he contributed 19 goals and 32 assists.
He saw a lot of time with Artturi Lehkonen, clocking in at over 288 minutes of total time on ice together. They were joined most often by Jacob de la Rose, who typically isn’t an offensive-minded pivot, but they were a net positive trio, with five goals scored and just two allowed. That line was together for thefinal 13 games.
Galchenyuk’s second-most-common combination was a line that saw two stints during the season. On it, Jonathan Drouin was used in the middle before the formation of the de la Rose line, and while it was a trio with a lot of promise, it only managed to score a single goal. Drouin and Galchenyuk had had some chemistry earlier in the year, but in nearly 400 minutes of combined time, the team scored just eight five-on-five goals and allowed 21.
Despite the inconsistency in his play, a bright spot for Galchenyuk last season was the fact that he led the Canadiens with 24 power-play points, showing effectiveness on the special-teams unit. Remaining a mainstay on the man advantage is crucial for the team going forward, as he seems to be at his best when given time, space, and specific instructions to use his shot. With an offensive breakout, Galchenyuk ceiling could be much higher than the 56-point total that serves as his current peak.
Perhaps the addition of a top-end forward at the draft such as Andrei Svechnikov or Filip Zadina will boost Galchenyuk as well, as playing with similiarly minded players has benefited him in the past. It also creates a sense of competition within the line-up, which could have a positive effect on his offensive game.