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Alex Galchenyuk turning heads at Canadiens camp

Alex Galchenyuk, center, smiles with officials from the Montreal Canadiens after being chosen third overall in the first round of the NHL hockey draft on Friday, June 22, 2012, in Pittsburgh.

Associated Press

It was the sort of jaw-dropping display that screamed for a grander stage than a suburban fishbowl of a rink surrounded by a few hundred work-shy fans.

Montreal Canadiens prospect Alex Galchenyuk swooped menacingly in on goalie Peter Budaj during a shootout drill, served up a series of head fakes, and sniped an effortless shot into the top shelf.

Up went the cheers from the 2012 third overall draft pick's putative teammates (the stakes were not inconsiderable, the losing squad would have to do laps, not fun when you've been on the ice two hours).

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But then came the really good stuff.

The 18-year-old Galchenyuk took his turn at the other end of the ice against three-time all-star goaltender Carey Price. And served up a faked-shot-backhand-forehand deke that had the Habs' starting netminder on the seat of his pants before the puck whistled past him into the net, prompting more cheers.

Yes, a water bottle may have been harmed or mistreated in the making of this highlight.

"Nice mitts," Price observed afterward.


There is considerable buzz building around Galchenyuk at this camp, and not just because the kid knows his way around a shootout.

Coach Michel Therrien pointedly said that's not going to be enough to turn his head ("you don't keep a guy around just because he's skilled in the shootout"), before allowing that lots of other stuff has caught the coaching staff's attention about the Belarusian-born American forward.

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Like speed and an NHL shot. Poise. Maturity.

"On and off the ice," Therrien added.

So will it be enough for the Canadiens to hand a roster spot to an 18-year-old player for the first time since 1984?

Therrien's answer: check this space on Friday night, cut-down time.

It probably bears mentioning at this point that this is still a fair distance from "yes, he's in."

"I haven't even started to think about the decision Friday . . . we're taking it day-by-day,' Therrien said.

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Two days of practices and drills suggest that Galchenyuk remains very much in the picture for an early-season audition in the top-six forwards - he's been practising on a line with captain Brian Gionta and centre Lars Eller, who is filling in for the injured Tomas Plekanec.

Galchenyuk's shot and size - he's emphatically still a kid, just a very big and fit one - suggest the left wing slot on that line is his best hope to stick, but the coaches will also put him through the paces at his natural centre position, probably as early as Tuesday (Eller, in theory, will move to the wing).

What seems evident is that Galchenyuk is well-prepared to try and seize his chance, his focus is unwavering. To wit: when asked if he's had the opportunity to interact with any fans, Galchenyuk gave a sheepish smile.

"To be honest, I haven't really had that yet, whenever we go outside I sit in the mini-van then we go to the hotel, we don't really walk outside," he said. Informed that he will be recognized instantly when he does get around to doing a walkabout, he said "I've never had that before, it will be a definite experience, and I'm definitely looking forward to it."

The unspoken conclusion to that thought: but it can wait until I'm actually a member of the team.

Galchenyuk's dad had a long pro career in the minor league and European ranks, and the elder Galchenyuk has evidently tutored his son in the art of spouting dressing room clichés.

The Sarnia Sting forward has stuck to the same lines since arriving in town for his first pro camp: if a player's ready, he's ready, I'm only worried about controlling what I can control, if I just play my game I'll be fine.

It may actually have the side benefit of being true.

And the mind-set apparently extends to instances like Monday's, when Galchenyuk's twin moments of genius happened.

They were, he said, completely improvised.

"It's not like I have a notebook of moves, I go there and try and do whatever instincts or whatever tell me," he said.

Those instincts will almost assuredly earn him a five-game cameo in the NHL beginning Saturday night against the Maple Leafs.

Perhaps they'll even carry him into an NHL roster spot later this month.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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