The NHL entry draft is set for June 22-23 with the Maple Leafs, at this writing at least, holding the number five position. The Leafs haven’t enjoyed a higher position in the draft since they selected Scott Thornton third 23 years ago.
This is the first in a series of 10 player profiles, one a day, leading up to the draft weekend.
First off, the player most often associated with the Maple Leafs, Alex Galchenyuk.
Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia Sting, Centre. 4th NA
Alex Galchenyuk has the potential to be upwardly mobile.
Rated the fourth-best North American prospect by NHL Central Scouting, Galchenyuk enters the draft as one big wild card.
While his name has been often linked to the Leafs in pre-draft projections, Galchenyuk could finish one or two spots higher. His agent, Igor Larionov, has also mused about a scenario where Leafs GM Brian Burke acquires Nail Yakupov and Galchenyuk.
That scenario is likely the stuff of science fiction but the conventional reasoning for Galchenyuk being picked fifth goes like this…Nail Yakupov is the universal choice for first overall. While his stock has been damaged because of a late-playoff dip, Quebec Ramparts six-foot-two centre Mikhail Grigorenko should be chosen in the top four.
Ryan Murray is the standout prospect among defenceman. He could go anywhere between two and five. Swede Filip Forsberg will need a little longer gestation period but he is a Gabriel Landeskog-type prospect who could go second, third or fourth.
That scenario leaves Galchenyuk at number five.
The son of Alexander Galchenyuk, a well-traveled pro who played for Belarus at the 1998 Olympics, Galchenyuk was born in Milwaukee where his dad played for the hometown Admirals.
A pre-season knee injury wrecked Galchenyuk’s draft year. He returned for two regular season games and recorded two goals and two assists as the Sting were eliminated by Saginaw in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
“It was a tough season for me obviously mentally and emotionally. I think as it went on I got mentally tougher,” he said.
Drafted first overall into the OHL, Galchenyuk said the injury has not forced him to re-appraise his goals.
“From Day 1 I said I was going to work hard and come back and to get drafted, he said. “It wasn’t about getting drafted as high as possible. It was just about getting drafted.”
Galchenyuk is probably an inch or two shorter than his listed height of six feet but he there is no questioning his scoring and playmaking skills. In his rookie season, Galchenyuk racked up 31 goals and 83 points.
Galchenyuk and his linemate Yakupov, were a formidable combo for the Sting.
“I think we helped each other a lot,” he said. “I think it wasn’t about competing against each other but instead it was about making each other better to get to the NHL.”