If the Montreal Canadiens have anything to be happy about during the NHL lockout, it just might have something to do with their new general manager and scouting team. The Canadiens’ first two draft picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft are both off to very good starts in this year’s IIHF U20 hockey tournament in Russia.
Alex Galchenyuk, USA, (1st round, 3rd overall) and Sebastian Collberg, Sweden, (2nd round, 33rd overall) have both served notice to opposing teams and judging by their play, there’s little reason to think they will let up any time soon.
Galchenyuk is widely regarded as the full package. Suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011 after only two games did little to discourage the Canadiens from selecting him high in the draft. Coming into the tournament, he was one of the hottest players in the OHL and that spilled into the World Juniors.
The U.S. opened the scoring 19 seconds into their first tournament game and that’s how long Galchenyuk had to wait for his first point. A second assist, yes, but he made the heads up to play to head-man the puck up to Riley Barber, who in turn fed Sean Kuraly for the goal. Galchenyuk’s first goal of the tournament came soon after and it did a little more than just put the U.S. up 3-0 for Habs fans.
The vision, patience and deadly accuracy he displayed on that highlight reel goal showed the potential he has to succeed in the NHL. He followed that up with a forecheckers’ assist, pressuring a German defender into blowing a tire and immediately feeding Riley Barber in front for his third point of the game. See the video below for Galchenyuk’s highlight reel from the German game.
His second game against Russia wasn’t a high scoring shootout but Galchenyuk did get an assist on the American’s only goal of the game. On the powerplay he opted for a pass to the point and Jacob Trouba powered it past a screened Andrei Makarov. It was a nice set-up and a powerful finish by the Jets’ first rounder.
Aside from the offensive production, he has looked good away from the puck. He is usually in the right spot, calm without the puck and picks up his assignments. He may need to work a little harder on his defensive game but so far he looks like one of the standout players early on.
There isn’t as much hype surrounding Sebastian Collberg but the young Swede has been lethal in his first two games, punishing the Czech Republic and Switzerland with a powerplay goal in each one.
There seems to be little doubt for what Sweden’s plan is with Collberg out on the powerplay as both goals were near mirrored plays in both games; cross-ice one-timers (see the video below for his goal against the Czech Republic). It’s somewhat reminiscent of a Mike Cammalleri one-timer, which wasn’t a bad thing when he wanted to play. The fact that Collberg is not only connecting and putting them on net, but scoring, is a good sign for Canadiens fans. He did miss his shootout opportunity, but then, so did four other players. Collberg made a nice move but Melvin Nyffeler made a better save.
Having said that, Collberg has disappeared a few times in both games. He doesn’t seem to like rough play and tends to shy away if things are looking physical. He’s skating well and it’s clear he’s a threat whenever he possesses the puck. I’m not sure he’d make a smooth transition to North American hockey right out the gate. A bit more physicality is necessary for him to reach his full potential.
Collberg’s next game is Saturday against Team Latvia, a team widely expected to finish last in its group while Galchenyuk will be in action on Sunday against Team Canada.