With Louis Leblanc recently being shifted over to the wing from center (via RantSports), he and Brendan Gallagher are more likely to go head to head in a battle for ice time with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs and ultimately the Montreal Canadiens moving forward.
Call it an intriguing—exciting, even—storyline in a season that’s certainly been less than rife with them (will this be the day the National Hockey League and Players’ Association meet for three-straight hours before giving up, or just the regular two?). The question remains, though: Between Leblanc and Gallagher, who should win out?
Leblanc has one huge advantage, and that is his pedigree. He is a former first-round pick (18th overall in 2009), while right-winger Gallagher is a fifth-round one. In the eyes of Habs management, this could mean that his development should be prioritized over that of other players’ regardless of his skill level.
Leblanc is also a year older and presumably wiser. He has played in 42 career regular-season NHL games. It’s not a lot, granted, but it is more than Gallagher has to his name, with the latter essentially being limited to two training camps in 2010 and 2011. Admittedly, Gallagher earned a lot of praise for his grit, work ethic and overall play that last year.
Another point for Leblanc is, oddly enough, his size, despite being an average 6’0” tall and just 190 pounds. Gallagher is listed at 5’8” and 182 pounds.
However, as all hockey fans know, and Tampa Bay Lightning ones in particular after having watched Martin St. Louis rack up the points over 10-plus seasons, it’s not necessarily the size of the person that matters, but how the coaching staff uses that person. As such, that’s pretty much where the tale of the tape ends in Leblanc’s favor.
Gallagher, who was a prolific scorer in junior, amassed 279 points in 244 games with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (Leblanc scored 58 points in 51 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, for the record).
Needless to say, Montreal was not drafting a defenseman when they chose Gallagher (even if his plus/minus was pretty impressive in junior). In Leblanc, they conversely chose a more well-rounded player. Translation: Montreal will be looking for Leblanc to develop his defensive game as well as his offensive one.
Ideally, the same holds true for Gallagher, but there’s less pressure on him to excel at both ends of the ice. The Habs drafted him to score goals. Goals are all that really count in fans’ eyes, even if they shouldn’t.
Excitement is relative. In all honesty, a new episode of Saturday Night Live gets me excited, but that’s mainly because I have no social life (Jeremy Renner was just so-so as host this last one, in case you were wondering).
In regard to hockey, it’s a hard thing to quantify, especially as it pertains to two prospects to whom few have had a lot exposure. However, everyone loves a good underdog, and that’s the main reason why Gallagher gets the nod here. Leblanc may be the better player (at least right now), but better does not equal more exciting.
In fact, the fewer games played in front of the Montreal faithful has given Gallagher an edge here. In truth, he may not pan out (Leblanc may not either), but he certainly captured the imaginations of many over the one preseason he remained with the team until the last few days of training camp.
Forget size of body, here. Also, forget size of heart. Unless you’re a cardiac surgeon, you’re not all that qualified to comment on who has the bigger one. What’s key here is the size of the dreams each is capable of weaving.
Montreal has seen Leblanc play over the course of one regular season and he’s been just okay. That isn’t to say he was expected to be in the running for the Hart Memorial Trophy with just 42 games played last season and more specifically his 42 games played in which he scored just 10 points in more of a defensive role.
He certainly hasn’t exceeded expectations, though.
It’s an admitted technicality, but Gallagher, on the other hand, is full of potential. In spite of his diminutive stature, no one knows how high his ceiling is and how many goals he's capable of scoring, and that’s what’s truly exciting.