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Considering Montreal's long history of allowing its prospects to develop slowly, it was generally thought that Alex Galchenyuk would be making his NHL debut this season after a development year last season in junior.
Instead, the third overall pick from the 2012 draft forced the hands of Canadiens management with an impressive training camp last January and played his way onto the team.
He played very much like a 19-year-old last season, with some brilliant moments and some low ones. He ended the season with nine goals and 18 assists in 48 games, finishing eighth in team scoring.
This year, Galchenyuk has been much better.
Through 40 games, the sophomore sits second in scoring among forwards with 10 goals and 12 assists. He is tied for third in power-play scoring with seven points. He is sixth in shots on net and has the second-highest shooting percentage on the team.
All from a kid who is still eligible to be playing for Team USA at the current World Junior Hockey Championship.
Galchenyuk's game is constantly developing, as he is proving to be the gem of the 2012 draft class. The only thing standing in his way right now seems to be his own coach.
Michel Therrien has always held young players back a bit—see: P.K. Subban—and seems to be doing it again with Galchenyuk.
His ice time fluctuates on a game-to-game basis, making it hard for him to get into any kind of rhythm. He has played as little as 8:13 and as much as 19:03 in December alone.
Recently, he has even seen his power-play time take a major hit. Over the past three games, he has averaged just 42 seconds of ice time with the man advantage. He didn't even touch the ice on the power play in Montreal's most recent game against Florida.
There is no logical explanation as to why Therrien is keeping his most talented forward on the bench while he watches his offensively challenged team try and create goals. The Canadiens have scored just 14 goals in their last nine games. They need offense and they need it now.
It's time for Therrien to let go of the reins a bit with Galchenyuk. He's already the team's most improved player this season and will be even better by season's end if he's given the chance.