Playing with Giants
MONTREAL – Brendan Gallagher officially introduced himself to the fans in Montreal with a stellar training camp this September. But Habs fans aren’t the only ones who have taken notice of the shifty winger.
If there’s one thing Gallagher knows how to do on the ice, it’s pile up points. Since making his WHL debut with the Vancouver Giants, he’s been racking up goals and assists at a torrid pace, continuing the offensive festival with a helper on Saturday to become the franchise’s all-time leader with 274 points.
“If you would’ve told me when I first started Junior that I’d become the team’s all-time points leader, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” admitted Gallagher with a laugh after breaking the record previously set by Adam Courchaine between 2001 and 2005.
“It’s a pretty special feeling, but I know that I didn’t do any of this by myself,” he added. “The Vancouver Giants organization has been great to me. From the time I was 16, [Giants head coach] Don Hay has taught me so much and the assistant coaches have been great to me, making sure I continue to develop and learn every time I come to the rink.”
When the B.C.-based team selected Gallagher in the ninth round of the WHL Draft in 2007, even they probably couldn’t have imagined the kind of player the Edmonton native would turn out to be. Armed with unrivaled determination and a keen hockey sense, Gallagher has been proving his critics wrong – and the Giants’ brass right – ever since.
It was no secret coming into the campaign that the 19-year-old could earn a spot in the Giants’ record books with a stellar season, but there’s only thing Gallagher has been focusing on since the opening puck drop in October: helping his team win.
“Every year I’ve been given more responsibilities in terms of leadership,” explained the Giants captain. “More pressure was put on me to help my team put up numbers and have success. I enjoy that and learn from it.”
The 2011-12 season has been an emotional one for the winger, who also become his team’s leading scorer this year with 133 goals and counting. After having a break out training camp with the Canadiens in the fall, Gallagher was sent back to Vancouver where he earned a spot representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships on home ice.
It’s been a whirlwind for the young forward since being drafted by the Habs in the fifth round at the 2010 Draft, but Gallagher has made sure to soak it all up and enjoy the ride along the way.
“It’s been a wild year for me. It has been one of the most exciting years I’ve ever had the chance to play and this could potentially be my last year in Junior as well. The World Juniors were a very positive experience, even though we didn’t win,” shared Gallagher, who helped lead Canada to a bronze medal this January.
“My experience in Montreal at the start of the year was a little bit different for me. I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” he continued. “I didn’t have any expectations, I just wanted to play my best and impress some people. I guess by the end of it maybe I didn’t, but it made me hungrier for next year hoping to make the team.”
In a few short weeks, Gallagher will be looking to add to his dream season as the Giants look to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champs. While he may be enjoying his last few games at the Junior level and focusing on the task at hand, the image of himself potentially pulling on a Habs jersey in 2012-13 is always in the back of his mind, pushing him that much harder.
Having already given Habs fans foreshadowing about what’s to come, Gallagher is hoping to make the big leap to the NHL next season. Nothing is guaranteed and there’s a chance his next stop will be Hamilton before packing his bags for Montreal permanently, but Gallagher has only ever had one goal in mind.
“For me, I’m going in there and trying to make the Montreal Canadiens. That’s the main goal. You want to be in the NHL – that’s every kid’s dream,” confirmed Gallagher, who will turn 20 in May. “That’s what I’ll be training towards all summer. Last year’s exhibition games were huge for my development. Playing with and against NHL talent in competitive games was really special for me.
“By practicing with those guys, I got better every day and got more comfortable every game,” he offered. “It definitely helped me and I used a lot of it this year with the Giants. And when I’ll go back next year I’ll know what to expect.”
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
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