Although the 2016-2017 NHL season is young, Alex Galchenyuk‘s ice time at center has been minimal. The 22-year-old leads the Montreal Canadiens with 9 goals and 22 points in 23 games. But he sees the ice only 16:03 per game, third on the team for ice time amongst forwards, behind Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. Galchenyuk deserves more ice time.
Alex Galchenyuk Ice Time Deserves Increase
Producing at Staggering Rate, Seeing Little Ice
Dating back to the final 22 games of last season – games in which he played with a broken finger – Galchenyuk has been producing at nearly a point per game. He has 25 goals and 15 assists in his previous 45 games, with an average time on ice of 16:53. This hike in production coincides with him playing center regularly. Head Coach Michel Therrien moved him to his natural position at center late last season, and it has paid dividends.
Up to last season, Galchenyuk’s goals and points total had improved every season, along with his ice time. He scored 20 goals and 46 points in 2015-2016 (16:26 TOI/game), and 30 goals and 56 points last season (16:16 TOI/game). But now Therrien is reducing Galchenyuk’s ice time, with only 16:03 so far.
The American also sees less ice time in five-on-five close-game situations, compared to other centers. He has been on the ice for 7:55/game in close games, but he trails Plekanec (8:15/game). David Desharnais is on the ice only 20 seconds less than him at 7:35. Galchenyuk has three goals and six assists for nine points in this situation, while Desharnais has two goals and four points, and Plekanec has just a single assist. Galchenyuk is also fourth in forwards for time on ice in five-on-five close-game situations. He trails Pacioretty, Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, even though he produces the most out of all three players.
Another concerning ice-time figure is in five-on-five situations in which the Canadiens are up by one goal. Galchenyuk has been on for a total of 59:26 in this situation, but is the fourth-most used forward, once again behind the Pacioretty-Plekanec-Gallagher second line. But bottom-six players like Phillip Danault, Torrey Mitchell and Andrew Shaw have seen only a few minutes less of ice time than him. When the Habs are up by only a goal, wouldn’t Therrien want his top scorer on the ice, and not his checking players? Parking the bus only works in soccer.
Galchenyuk has been under Therrien’s guidance ever since he entered the league has an 18-year-old in the 2013 season. Therrien and the Canadiens management did a fine job of bringing Galchenyuk up to the NHL elite, but now it’s time for them to release the shackles and let Galchenyuk unleash his power.
Pairing with Radulov and Byron
It could be argued that Galchenyuk did not have skilled linemates in past seasons. That’s not an excuse this year. Galchenyuk has found a perfect match in Alexander Radulov and Paul Byron. The most unlikely trio on a first line is producing big numbers for the Canadiens.
They have scored seven five-on-five goals together, the most out of any trio on the Canadiens. The line has played nearly 94 minutes together, and their 58.3 goals-for percentage and 55.5 Corsi-for percentage leads the team amongst the three other trios. Only the former combination of Shaw, Danault and Pacioretty, who have played 55 minutes together, have had a better Corsi-for at 63.46%.
The current second line of Gallagher, Plekanec and Pacioretty, has scored two goals in 80 minutes together. They also have a Corsi-for percentage of 49.35. Yet, the individual players on that line see more ice time than the first line. Also, the first line has a shooting percentage of 13.73, with the second line at a mere 5.41%.
Why does Therrien continue to rely on that second line more? There will probably never be an answer.
Galchenyuk Brings Firepower
Galchenyuk provides a punch that hasn’t been seen in a while in Montreal. Add his play to that of the energetic Radulov, and there’s an exciting product on the ice. Byron just compliments the two with his speed and willingness to get in dirty areas.
The three players together make defensemen’s heads twirl, and give goalies headaches. While they do have a PDO of 102.1, showing some belief that production will likely slow down in the future. However this slow down could be off-set or even avoided with a little extra ice time per game, and more opportunities to produce.
Galchenyuk along is developing the ability to score from nearly anywhere on the ice. The third overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is the most productive player from his draft class. And he is turning himself into one of the most productive forwards in the NHL.
His 3.41 points per 60 minutes in all situations is fifth-most in the league. Of the top ten players in that situation, Galchenyuk has seen the third-least amount of ice time. Radulov is in the ninth spot with 3.22 points/60 in all situations. If Therrien could allow Galchenyuk to play a few extra minutes a night, he could be produce over a point a game.