BROSSARD – His linemates may be earning most of the headlines, but Brandon Prust has been quietly making his mark in Montreal.
After co-leading the NHL with 20 fighting majors in 2011-12, Prust joined the Habs with a bit of a reputation to uphold. A gritty, two-way player who isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates, the former Rangers winger was expected to bring some sandpaper to the Canadiens’ lineup and make the Bell Centre a less-than-hospitable venue to visit.
Despite his tough guy label, Prust has been busy proving he can bring a lot more to the table than just a mean right hook.
“I think sometimes people see the amount of penalty minutes or the number of fighting majors I have and they think that’s maybe all I do. I think they’ll start to realize quickly that I can play the game, too, and that I can contribute offensively and play well defensively,” mentioned Prust, who racked up 156 penalty minutes with New York last year.
While he didn’t waste any time dropping the gloves for the first time as a Hab, going toe-to-toe with Mike Brown seven minutes into his Canadiens debut against the Leafs, he was almost as fast finding his way onto the scoresheet. Alex Galchenyuk brought down the house when he deflected home his first career NHL goal against the Panthers, as the man who shot the puck quietly picked up his first point in a Habs jersey.
“Playing with Brandon was huge for us,” offered Prust’s other linemate, Brendan Gallagher, who registered his first career NHL point on that same goal in his first career NHL game. “You see what he brings to our team; he’s a complete player. He does a lot of things very well. Just playing on his line, he opens things up for us and we know he’s there to protect us when we need it. He’s also a great leader. He talks to us a lot on the bench which has been a big help.”
Already a grizzled vet at age 28, Prust has made sure to take his budding young linemates under his wing to teach them a thing or two about life in the NHL.
“They’re great players. They’re smart, they’re fast and they’re working their butts off so it’s fun to play with them,” shared Prust of 18-year-old Galchenyuk and 20-year-old Gallagher. “It’s good to have the young kids coming in with their high skill levels and you need to have those veterans there to kind of show them the ropes a little bit and teach them how to be professionals.”
Prust’s leadership hasn’t gone unnoticed by his rookie linemates, who have already coined a fitting nickname for the newest authority figure in their lives.
“We called him the babysitter yesterday,” laughed Gallagher. “I mean, we know he’s got our backs, but we have his, too. We’re not bigger guys, but if he ever needs us, we’re going to be right in there along with him. He’s a good teammate and we appreciate that.”
Even when he’s not in the room, Therrien can rest easy knowing he has a responsible set of eyes looking out for his two future stars.
“I’m probably the highest-paid babysitter out there. The two of them are going to have to get out their wallets on this road trip,” joked Prust, before divulging the next item he’s planning on adding to their lesson plan: the sweet science. “We got into a scrum last night and Alex was saying, ‘Alright, we might have to go here but I’m not really sure what to do!’ I might have to show him a few techniques when we’re on the road this week.”
With their gloves on or off, Gallagher and Galchenyuk are obviously in great hands.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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