On Thursday, I had a chance to take in the Sarnia Sting-Barrie Colts game
featuring Montreal’s 1st round pick Alex Galchenyuk. It was the first time
I’ve been able to see him play in person and given his recent production heading
into this one (17 points in his previous 8 games), my expectations were quite
high. Although his team was on the wrong side of a 5-3 loss, Galchenyuk
had a decent game overall.
Before the game even started, I really noticed his attention to detail when
it comes to passing and his stickhandling. In the final ten minutes of the
warmup, he shot the puck a whopping one time (right near the end when there was
no goalie), the rest of the time was spent working on either passing in line
rushes or going to his own little section of the ice, focusing on quick cuts,
dangling, and puck security. Those elements were put to the test time and
time again in the game as the Colts’ game plan was to limit the amount of time
and space he had to work with in the offensive zone.
One concern that came about from his work with the puck is that too often
he’d try to make the fancy play. Sometimes it would work (such as flipping
the puck up and over the opponents’ stick to make a pass) but it also led to
several turnovers. This is not something that is uncommon in junior hockey
as the top players (and he certainly stood out as a top player) often try to go
above and beyond but making the safe and simple play is something that I’m sure
coaches at the professional level will want to work with him on. When the
fancy plays worked though, it turned lots of heads in the crowd.
Galchenyuk’s skating is an area that has been discussed a lot. In terms
of speed, he was quicker than I expected, especially going up against a Barrie
team that has a lot of speed on their top lines. His acceleration isn’t
textbook, so to speak, but when he had the puck one-on-one, he regularly was
quicker than his check. I was also happy to see that he would regularly
hustle back to the defensive zone when Barrie had control of the puck, something
that could not be said for a couple of players on either side.
As we all know, his passing is a huge part of his game and this is where he
really shone on Thursday. Although he was covered early and often by the
Colts’ defencemen, he made the right passes and kept the play going.
Galchenyuk’s first assist was in the Barrie zone when he fed a pass back to the
point to Connor Murphy who sniped one home to get the Sting on the board.
Although that sounds nice, his passing in transition is even better. This
game was all about transition (seriously, you might have been able to count the
number of quality checks between the teams on two hands) and the Habs’ top
prospect really sparked that for Sarnia. The passes were tape-to-tape and
came quickly, catching the Barrie defencemen flat-footed on a few occasions.
His second helper came in transition when he perfectly fired a near
blueline-to-blueline feed to start a mini 2-on-1, leading to Reid Boucher’s
second of the night, tying the game early in the 3rd. Much to my delight,
the Colts capitalized on a late turnover to secure the win.
- Galchenyuk finished with a pair of assists and a +1 rating on the night.
– Official TOI and shot stats aren’t publicly available but if I had to guess,
I’d peg him for around 20 minutes of ice time and a handful of shots on goal.
– His shifts were quite lengthy, often going over 90 seconds. That’s
something that seemed to be the case for all of the lines on either side though.
– Although Galchenyuk was in the starting lineup at centre, he spent most of the
game playing on the wing alongside Boucher and Charles Sarault. His line
was frequently being matched with Barrie’s top trio of Anthony Camara, Mark
Scheifele, and Zach Hall.
– If I was giving him a letter grade on the game, I’d give him a B-. He
didn’t play poorly but he could have been better as well; it was a decent
Thoughts on non-Hab prospects
Andreas Athanasiou (DET, 110th in 2012): In terms of his skill, it’s
easy to see why he was rated as a potential top-40 prospect heading into last
year. His skill with the puck and his effort in the offensive zone is
something to behold. However, it’s also easy to see why he dropped to
110th overall. His form of defence is more often than not hanging around
outside the blueline when the puck is in his own end, something that won’t be
tolerated in the pros. If Detroit’s coaching staff can get him to hustle
in all three zones, they will have a steal on their hands but as it stands, he
is a longshot to be an NHL’er.
Alex Fotinos (draft eligible in 2012): He was rated as a ‘B’ goalie by
Central Scouting before the season and it’s understandable why he’s on their
radar. He really impressed me with his quickness in the crease and almost
always was square to the shooter. His rebound control is a little suspect
but that should improve. He is in line to be Barrie’s starter beyond this
year and would be worth a look in the middle rounds in the draft.
Connor Murphy (PHX, 20th in 2011): When he was drafted in the 1st
round, I was a little surprised. Having seen him now, I’m no longer
perplexed by the selection. He was far and away the best defenceman on
either side in this one, is very reliable in his own end, and plays well in the
offensive zone. I wouldn’t call him a future top pairing player but he
will be a solid NHL’er in the near future.
Charles Sarault (overager, NHL free agent): He was going to be invited
to the Habs’ rookie camp had there been one so he was a player I was keeping an
eye on. Although he has some chemistry with Galchenyuk, I don’t see him
having the skills to succeed at the professional level. He is a high
quality junior player but his pro debut will likely start in the ECHL.
He’s worth a flyer on a minor league deal (I’ll say that about a lot of CHL
overagers though) but I wouldn’t give him an NHL entry-level pact.
Mark Scheifele (WPG, 7th in 2011): Being a Barrie fan, I’ve had a
chance to see Scheifele a few times, Thursday night was his best all-around
effort even though he only had one point. He fell a few times in the
neutral zone but that was the lone blemish on an otherwise strong performance.
His defensive game has improved significantly and he clearly is too good for the
OHL level. If the lockout ends, he should once again begin the NHL season
Did You Know?
A pair of Barrie Colts have connections to former Habs. 18 year old
centre Dylan Corson is Shayne Corson’s son while 16 year old winger Brendan
Lemieux (who played in his just his 3rd game after signing with Barrie last
week) is the son of longtime NHL’er Claude Lemieux. Both skated on the 4th