The Montreal Canadiens committed grand theft larceny at the 2010 NHL Draft when they selected Brendan Gallagher. At least, figuratively speaking.
Despite scoring 41 goals and producing 81 points during the 2009-10 WHL season with the Vancouver Giants, Gallagher wasn’t picked until round five of the draft. If you need more proof that Gallagher was a steal for the Canadiens, it was on full display at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships.
The five-foot-nine, 175-pound Gallagher was one of the leaders on Team Canada in their bronze medal performance at the tournament for many reasons, not the least of which is his desire and work ethic.
It’s because of this desire and because his will is so strong that head coach Don Hay had Gallagher on the ice almost every other shift in the final 10 minutes of Canada’s semi-final game against Russia, when they almost pulled off a miraculous comeback.
After all, Hay is also Gallagher’s WHL coach in Vancouver and has seen him put the Giants on his shoulders and will them back into games so many times before that it was a no-brainer to have him on the ice so often in final minutes of that game.
But where does this work and desire that is second to none come from?
Some might point to those who told Gallagher he was too small to play at the NHL level when he was younger that have given him so much motivation, although he’s at the point now where he’s heard it so many times that he just shrugs it off.
He’s already proven those people wrong by succeeding as perhaps the best forward in the entire WHL at just five-foot-nine, and he’s never had much of a problem taking the puck to the net and winning the battles in the corners, according to his interview with the Montreal Gazette.
“I was always the smallest guy out there. I learned to deal with it at a young age. It’s something that never really bothered me. I was always able to do what I wanted to do.”
So if Gallagher has always been able to do what he wanted on the ice and dominate the power game, perhaps we need to look past the motivation he received by being told he was too small and focus more on his work ethic.
This is where family ties are so important, and that’s where the strength and conditioning coach of the Vancouver Giants named Ian Gallagher comes into play.
Ian is also Brendan’s dad, so you can bet that he demands even more from his son than he does from the other members of the Giants in the off-ice training sessions. This is likely where Brendan gets his attitude from, and it’s why he never seems to take a day off.
A perfect example of Gallagher’s attitude was when he was given the day off from Giants practice after he returned from the World Juniors. But instead of staying home, Gallagher showed up anyway just to cheer on his teammates and give them some encouragement.
The next day, he scored a hat trick and put up seven points in his first game back from the tournament with former Habs legend Guy Lafleur at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver watching.
That’s just the way Gallagher is. He simply enjoys working harder and doing more than any other player around him. That’s why he has succeeded so far and will likely succeed at the next level as well.
When Gallagher plays, he routinely drives the net with no fear and takes on opponents much bigger than him all the time and comes away with the puck. These are his greatest attributes. Not his puck handling or his skating and shooting abilities, even though he isn’t lacking in those departments either.
Perhaps this is why he wasn’t drafted until the fifth round of the NHL draft. Many pro scouts may have been concerned with how Gallagher would fare playing his style of game at his size against full-grown men.
But consider this: Gallagher wasn’t selected until the ninth round of the WHL Bantam Draft back in 2007 for the same reasons. Most teams didn’t think he’d be nearly as successful at the major junior level as he was in Bantam given his size and his style of play, but Gallagher’s numbers have proven them wrong.
After he was drafted by the Canadiens in June of 2010, Gallagher scored 44 goals and racked up 91 points last season and so far this season, he has an astonishing 29 goals and 56 points in just 34 games. Those are the types of numbers that very few second-round NHL picks ever put up in juniors, let alone fifth-round picks.
Maybe the Canadiens knew about Gallagher’s intangibles and knew what they were getting when the picked him, or maybe they just got lucky. Either way, their fifth-round gamble appears to have already paid off, even though he hasn’t even played a regular season game in the NHL yet.
Follow Adam Graham on Twitter