Galchenyuk to start as No. 1 center in Montreal

AP
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When the Habs took Alex Galchenyuk third overall at the 2012 draft, they hoped they were getting their top-line center of the future.

And now, the plan has come together.

Per the Gazette, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said he will open this season with Galchenyuk as his No. 1 center, on a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.

That would bump veteran Tomas Plekanec down to the No. 2 spot, next to Alex Radulov and Andrew Shaw.

“I’m always ready for a challenge,” Galchenyuk said. “I expect a lot of big things from me. I always put a lot of expectations on myself.”

One of the biggest omissions from Team North America’s World Cup squad, Galchenyuk vaulted himself into No. 1 duties with a great ’15-16 campaign, in which he scored 30 goals — 16 of them coming in the final 22 games of the year.

The goal production was nice, no doubt.

But Galchenyuk will need upticks in other categories to thrive in his new role.

The 22-year-old won just 47.9 percent of his draws last year, though it was by far his most extensive work in the faceoff circle (749 taken, compared to just 167 the year prior). He also only averaged 16:16 TOI per game, and one expects a significant bump there as well.

Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly averaged 21:44 per game last year. Other top centers in the Eastern Conference like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and John Tavares were all hovering around 20-21.

With all that said, Galchenyuk will certainly be one to watch as the season opens. Last year, Plekanec enjoyed tremendous early success with Pacioretty and Gallagher — trio was one of the NHL’s best lines to start the year.