Last June, the hockey world offered up buckets of praise to Trevor Timmins and the Montreal Canadiens for their collective work at the draft table. This was especially true with their top two selections, Alex Galchenyuk (USA) and Sebastian Collberg (Sweden). Galchenyuk was a major question mark headed into the June entry draft, as a major knee injury which required surgery caused him to miss several months. Collberg was touted as a gifted scorer who has thrived during international play, but found it difficult to produce as a 17 year old against men in the SEL.
Half a year later, Galchenyuk is currently 3rd in scoring in the OHL and is tied for 1st in goals. His significant hiatus from competitive hockey lead him to a slow start with 3 goals and 9 assists in his first 11 games. After he managed to shake off the rust and cobwebs, he has had 24 goals and 23 assists in his last 22 games, and won OHL Player of the Week honours just before heading to Ufa, Russia with his American teammates.
Collberg has had a much rockier season, failing to score in the Swedish Elite League in 16 games. He has spent an additional 16 games in the 2nd and 3rd division, where he has scored 7 goals and added 3 assists. Collberg has found it difficult to get ice time with Division 1 Frolunda HC, as he is the youngest player on the team by almost 2 years.
Both players have produced offensively during the WJHC in Ufa. Collberg leads Sweden with 6 points, and is tied for the team lead with 4 goals. Collberg’s shootout prowess has made him a bit of a YouTube sensation, which he displayed as Sweden’s 3rd shooter in the semi-final against Russia. Collberg went in on Andrei Vasilevski at full speed, made a move to his backhand, and literally stuck the puck under the bar (see below for the highlight). The goal proved to be the game winner as Swedish goalie Niklas Lundstrom stopped all three Russian shooters. Collberg is tied for 1st in the tournament with 2 game winning goals.
Galchenyuk is tied for 4th in tournament scoring with 8 points. His 6 assists are a team best, but despite that, he can’t seem to get adequate ice time to reflect his production. US coach Phil Housley seems hell bent on rolling 4 lines, allowing his role players and depth forward many quality starts and ample ice time. Unfortunately, the result of the US and Canada semi-final makes it seem like he’s got it under control.
All Canadiens fans are hoping for a high scoring finale on Saturday in Ufa and that could very well be the case. The US is far and away the most productive team in the tournament, scoring 31 goals to date, which could cause trouble for Sweden missing many of their top defensemen; both teams may get involved in a barn burner. I know I hope that’s the case. Both teams will want to steer clear of the penalty box and both teams boast a better than 30% power play, scoring a combined 23 goals on 69 opportunities.
Either way, Habs fans – one of the prospects will win gold and the other will settle for silver. It’s really too bad that Charles Hudon (Canada) missed the tournament, although I’m not sure he could have made a difference against the Americans.