November 23, 2012
Convention calls to do a gee-this-guy-is-good-at-hockey-post when a NHL first-round pick such as Alex Galchenyuk pulls off one bit of brilliance that might get 100,000 views on YouTube by the end of this sentence.
However, that just seems to miss the point with how the Montreal Canadiens No. 3 overall choice is performing in his post-draft year for the Sarnia Sting while making up for last time after losing nearly all of last season due to injury. Being a great hockey player is not about being Internet-hot but being the complete package. There's enough snippets out there that, when pieced together, help convey that the 18-year-old Sting captain is working toward that now that he's healthy. He might be biggest force unto himself in the Ontario Hockey League, which is saying something in a season when high draft picks who are that all-important one year older such as the Winnipeg Jets' Mark Schiefele, New York Islanders' Ryan Strome and Boston Bruins' Dougie Hamilton were denied their shot at The Show by the NHL lockout. Galchenyuk's run could also augur well for Team USA.
Galchenyuk, who has taken on the captaincy with the Sting, has averaged two points per game across the last month. A quick scour also shows that he's doing it with plays that just show how advanced he is relative to his OHL peers.
Take for instance, the this perfect cross-ice pass he laid out to New Jersey Devils prospect Reid Boucher for a goal. Or the way he used a defender as a screen before whipping in a goal with half a second left in the period.
There is the way he darted into the goalmouth to find the crease in the coverage to strike before the opposition even recognized he was breaking into the slot. He's also been winning last-minute faceoffs to lock down wins.
Then there is how he uses is anticipation and acceleration to get behind the defence to earn a penalty shot (which he converted, of course). Also, there's the way he let the goalie twist in the wind before setting up a tap-in goal. Mind you, those are only the easily recalled highlights from recent Sting home games.
Galchenyuk is seventh in OHL scoring with 14 goals and 37 points in 23 games. However, all six players ahead of him are in their 19-year-old seasons and none lost an entire year to knee surgery. Only two others with 1994 birthdates are even among the league's top 20 point-getters: Ottawa 67's centre Sean Monahan, the OHL's best 2013 NHL draft prospect, and Toronto Maple Leafs draft choice Connor Brown, Connor McDavid's regular right wing with the Erie Otters.
Faces tough competition
The point is Galchenyuk is having a MVP-like run, even though it's possible circumstances will work against him earning such year-end recognition. The Sting are sixth in the cutthroat Western Conference, which is commendable, but the OHL's most outstanding player award typically has gone to someone whose team is closer to the top. Regardless, there might be no centre who has been more important to his team.
He has factored into 49.3 per cent of the Sting's goals in the games he's played, even though Sarnia's has an above-average strength of schedule. Strome, in contrast, has scored or assisted on an even 50 per cent of the Niagara IceDogs' goals. But the St. Catharines shinny concern has played the OHL's weakest schedule according to Rob Pettapiece's number-crunching.
Point being, Galchenyuk seems to be on extraordinary roll when you factor in the extenuating circumstances.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (video: TV Cogeco Ontario).