One of the most exciting things to watch unfold during the NHL season is the rookie race. Watching the top rookies adjust to life in the NHL and make their presence felt for their teams is a treat to watch. The top draft picks from previous drafts showcase their skills and battle it out for the chance to win the Calder Trophy. Normally the players in the running for the Calder are players taken inside the top 5, but this year the Calder trophy may go to a guy drafted 147th.
Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher is having a season to remember. He's worked his way into a top 6 forward role with the Canadiens, is fourth in rookie scoring with 24 points and has successfully become a pest that other teams hate to play against.
While there are other favourites for the Calder like, Jonathan Huberdeau, Cory Conacher or Brandon Saad, with the season Brendan Gallagher has had there's no doubt he deserves to at least be in the running for Calder.
Gallagher is only 5 foot 9 but he plays as if he was 6 foot 4. His drive and determination to not be shoved around and make an impact despite being so small has earned him a lot of respect. He's determined to make an impact with the Canadiens and help them win at whatever cost and that's what separates him from other rookies. Brendan Gallagher's will to win.
Brendan Gallagher makes his living parked atop the blue ice. Right in the goalies kitchen. He gets abused by the goaltender he's screening and the defenceman covering him. But every time you slash him, hit him, punch him or knock him down he get's right back up and comes back for more with a big smile on his face. That is the heart of a competitor.
I remember watching the Sabres and Canadiens square off a couple weeks ago and Gallagher was right in front of Ryan Miller. Miller gave him some pretty hefty slashes with his goalie stick, and then defenceman Tyler Myers- who is a foot taller than Gallagher- came over to try and dispose of him. Gallagher took the abuse from Myers and Miller, standing there with a big smile on his face, knowing that he had gotten under their skin.
A huge part of Brendan Gallagher's game is his ability to get under the opponents skin. He drives the opposition nuts and baits them into taking penalties or making dumb plays. He successfully got under the skin of Leafs forward Nazem Kadri last week. Kadri was so upset over Gallagher he ran around throwing hits and trying to be the tough guy instead of scoring goals.
On top of Gallagher being an annoying little bugger he can also produce. He's 4th in rookie scoring with 26 points but tied for first in goals by a rookie with 13. He leads all rookies in game wining goals with 3. He's scoring at a point-per-game rate of .62, 2nd best to Huberdeau and is averaging 22.57 scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time. The most remarkable thing is he's played 4 games less than his competition because of injury, yet is still right in the mix.
What makes Brendan Gallagher's impact so unique is not only his small stature but his small reputation. Heading into the season all anyone in Montreal wanted to talk about was Alex Galchenyuk and what his odds were for winning the Calder. No one gave Gallagher a shot to make the team out of training camp and certainly no one expected him to out-play Galchenyuk.
Now Gallagher has found a home on the Canadiens second line and see's himself going up against the oppositions best and tallest defenders every game. Yet Gallagher seems to flourish under the pressure and rises to the occasion. There's no slowing the 20 year-old rookie down.
Brendan Gallagher has done everything right for the Montreal Canadiens this season. He's scoring goals, drawing penalties and has become a force to be reckoned with. It would be a shame to see his efforts this season go to waste should he not win the Calder Trophy.
Brendan Gallagher appears to the be the offencive spark plug the Canadiens were missing. His work ethic and never give up style of play has inspired his Canadien teammates and catapulted them near the top of the Eastern Conference.
The fact that Brendan Gallagher battles for every lose puck, every shift, every game and is willing to pay the price makes him special. His will to win and work ethic set him apart from other rookies. Whether he wins the Calder or not is yet to be seen but for now he'll take a trip to the postseason with a strong and tight nit Canadien team. Branden Gallagher is going to be a key and valuable member of the Montreal Canadiens for the foreseeable future, he may even do enough to drive them deep into the playoffs.