Number cruncher: Young money

Friday, 23.05.2014 / 11:09 AM canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Alex Galchenyuk’s Game 3 overtime winner is another illustration that NHL greatness is often precocious.

On Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, at 20 years and 99 days, the Habs’ number 27 became the youngest player in Canadiens franchise history to score in overtime when he crashed the net and cashed in on a lively rebound. Sure, the American has scored prettier goals in his life, as the puck went off his chin, his chest and then past Henrik Lundqvist, but he was still no doubt thrilled with the outcome of that game-winning play.

By scoring his second career playoff goal, Galchenyuk joined a select company of Habs past and present. Indeed, since the NHL first expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967, only eight Canadiens skaters have lit the lamp more than once in the postseason before reaching the legal drinking age in the USA. Pesky winger Claude Lemieux leads the way with ten goals en route to the 1986 Stanley Cup. Trailing Lemieux are 50-goal scorer Stephane Richer (seven), rugged forward Shayne Corson (six), Sergei Kostitsyn (three) and Mario Tremblay (three). Doug Jarvis, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk round out the list with two goals apiece.

Looking at regular-season scoring, one cannot help but note that the best offensive players in the NHL today have made their marks at the top level at an early age. By the age of 20, most of the best scorers in the game today were already playing, and thriving, at the NHL level. In contrast, players still developing in the minors or skating as over-agers in the CHL are far less likely to emerge at dominant scorers in the major leagues. Among those who have debuted at age 18 in the past ten seasons, Sidney Crosby leads the way with 222 points in 160 games before turning 20. He is followed by Steven Stamkos (141 points), Jeff Skinner (107), Sam Gagner (90), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (76), Jordan Staal (70), Evander Kane (69) and 2014 rookie of the year candidate Nathan MacKinnon (63). Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal’s first pick in 2012, rounds out the Elite Nine with 58 points amassed over 113 regular-season games as a teenager.

When the Canadiens’ management and scouting staff decided on the former Sarnia Sting at the draft table in the summer of 2012, the group took a calculated gamble on a player who had missed all but two regular-season games in his second OHL campaign due to a serious knee injury. Still, there was one key factor supporting the selection of the speedy left-hander with the third overall pick. As a 16-year old rookie in 2010-11, Galchenyuk finished 20th in the OHL in scoring with 83 points in 68 games, a scoring pace rarely seen in pro prospects below the age of 18. According to independent research, over 72% of the scoring rate of a 17 year-old will carry over to the NHL four years later, whereas 20 year-olds will only retain 26% of his junior scoring. By this metric, we could expect Galchenyuk to tally upwards of 72 points next season, when he’ll turn 21. Time will tell, but for the talented sophomore, so far so good.

Jack Han is a writer for Canadiens.com

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