Montreal Canadiens: How Will Alex Galchenyuk Look Without Nail Yakupov?

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 20, 2012

Alex Galchenyuk built himself a reputation for being an elite playmaker in the junior ranks by setting up Nail Yakupov, the most recent first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.

Making the OHL's All-Rookie team along with Yakupov, it was his 2010-11 season in Sarnia that earned him the privilege of being drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens

When the young center went down with an injury last season, which caused him to miss what might as well have been the entire season in Sarnia, the injury didn't hurt his draft stock one bit.

While Nail Yakupov went on to have another successful season, albeit not as good as the previous year, Galchenuk recuperated and awaited his fate at the 2012 Draft.

Aside from uncertainty lurking in the NHL due to labor talks, the Canadiens are not going to let that deter them from watching Galchenyuk's development, where on an entry-level contract he is eligible and 100 percent likely to play a full season in the minors. 

While Galchenyuk has little if nothing left to prove in the Canadian juniors, the Habs might be weary of burning one year in his contract in the AHL, where the NHL's best young players are headed to start the season should there be a lockout for any length of time. 

Galchenyuk, who figures to compete for a future slot at the first-or second-line center position for the Habs a few years down the road, will be in open competition with fellow first-round pick Louis LeBlanc. LeBlanc was met with thunderous applause when the Quebec native was drafted back in 2009. 

The attention garnered among the two centers will be one of the most widely watched and analysed competitions in the Quebec media. 

Without his top-flight scorer on his wing, how will Galchenyuk respond? Will he live up to expectations and make a quick jump to the NHL, or will he turn out to be a product of Yakupov's elite skill. The safe money is on the first, and that the talented center will continue to amaze us all, no matter what league he starts in next year.