It was an impressive bunch indeed who took part in the recent NHL Combine, a 100 or more young physical specimens lifting and jumping and squeezing in front of an audience of NHL bigshots who studied these young fellows like men ogling strippers from the front seats of a strip club.
These young guys, strong, quick, and with great hair, are ready to make their mark in the big leagues, and watching them is a reminder how things have changed in pro sports with big contracts on the line. Long gone are the days of whipping into shape two weeks before the season opener. Gone are the days of the chubby and out-of-shape. Rest in peace, Gump Worsley.
With Montreal choosing third on Friday’s Entry Draft, it was interesting to see these kids and hear them talk and see what they can bring to the table. Do the Habs need a great young defenceman such as Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba, or Morgan Rielly, or is a flashy forward like Mikhail Grigorenko or Alex Galchenyuk the answer? For me, from watching the Combines, I’m hoping it’s Galchenyuk who puts on the CH in four days.
Galchenyuk not only impressed at the Combines with his jumping and lifting, but also with his personality. This is is a kid with all kinds of charisma, and the fans, media, and ladies would love him. If Montreal is going to have a great young superstar, it’s terrific that he’s interesting and doesn’t come off as a cardboard talking head.
Most importantly, of course, is his talent, and from all accounts, this guy has plenty. He’s a big 6’2, 185 lb. package of speed and skill, notching 83 points in 68 games as a 16-year old with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. The following season he played only two regular season games and six playoff contests because of a knee injury, but that hasn’t seemed to bother scouts and general managers. He makes them drool even without playing.
Galchenyuk is also a bit of a curiosity. He’s American-born, from Milwaukee, his dad was a minor league hockey player, but the family returned to Minsk when Alex was a toddler. The family would come back to the U.S. when the young fellow was 15 so he could play Midget AAA for the Chicago Young Americans, where he sparkled, and a year later he was drafted by the Sarnia Sting.
Galchenyuk speaks English with a light Russian accent, and is a dual citizen, holding both American and Russian passports. He has said that when it comes time to play for his country, it would be the U.S., which should put to rest any concerns about the kid bolting to the KHL. That and the fact that he’s spent his formative teen years in North America honing his craft.
Galchenyuk apparently has what it takes to be a star in the NHL, and what better place to shine than in Montreal? In interviews he’s showed he’s not nervous in front of a microphone, he believes in himself, and seems a rare breath of fresh air. He’s poised and skilled and you would have to think there would be an opening for him in the near future when you consider the Habs’ centremen currently consists of David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Ryan White, and yes, Scott Gomez. Surely he’d find a spot in there somewhere. And it’s just another in several dozen reasons to send Gomez packing.
Of course, all this is wasted two-fingered typing if the young fellow goes second, after Nail Yakupov, or fourth, which is the Islanders’ pick. I’m just saying he’d be a nice pick for the Habs, and I’m hoping it happens.