Coyotes’ Alex Galchenyuk excited for fresh start, chance to play centre

NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman joined Sportsnet Central to discuss the implications for both the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes in the Max Domi and Alex Galchenyuk trade.

If the Arizona Coyotes are going to regain a modicum of respectability around the NHL, new forward Alex Galchenyuk figures to play a key role in the franchise’s turnaround.

Galchenyuk was acquired by the Coyotes from the Montreal Canadiens in June in exchange for Max Domi in one of the most notable transactions of the off-season. It’s a fresh start both sides needed and Galchenyuk sees the upside in his situation.

“If you look around the league, the teams that are winning started from almost scratch and slowly made their way up through young players and developing young players, and also having a great veteran presence,” Galchenyuk told Coyotes senior director of news content Dave Vest. “If you look at our roster, we have that. I feel as a team we’re going to keep getting better and better, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Arizona’s win totals have decreased in each of the past three seasons and the franchise hasn’t qualified for the post-season since its 2012 Western Conference Final appearance. Still, there are reasons to hold some optimism in regards to this team.

Galchenyuk mentioned leadership and the Coyotes blue line boasts that in spades with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson setting a strong example for a youngster like Jakob Chychrun.

In net, Antti Raanta led by example in 2017-18. He has the makings of a quality No. 1 goalie after posting some of the best numbers in the league thanks to his .930 save percentage and 2.24 goals-against average in 47 games.

Shane Doan left a leadership void up front but Derek Stepan is a player that can be relied upon, and Coyotes GM John Chayka has done an admirable job accumulating a wealth of young forward talent.

Clayton Keller showed all-star potential in his rookie campaign, finishing third in Calder Trophy voting. Christian Dvorak turned his first 156 NHL games into a six-year, $26.7-million contract extension, while Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome have shown gradual improvements. There could be more help coming in the near future, too, in the form of 2015 first-rounders Nick Merkley and Lawson Crouse.

“When you look at the roster for the Coyotes, there’s a lot of great playmakers,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m happy to come in here and fit in here.”

Galchenyuk was taken third overall in 2012 and leads all players from that draft class in career assists with 147 and games played with 418. His 108 goals are second behind Filip Forsberg’s 117 and those two players are tied for top spot with 255 career NHL points apiece (in fairness, Galchenyuk has played 87 more games than Forsberg).

What makes Galchenyuk’s young career more impressive is that he’s done it primarily as a winger despite a strong desire to play down the middle more frequently.

“I’ve communicated with Alex and he said he’d like to play centre,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I have no problem with a player who’d like to try something if he backs it up. So, I want to give him a chance at centre if he wants to play it, and our coaching staff will try to give him the best possible help to play that centre position. We’ll see how that goes.”

If a move to centre results in Galchenyuk having some extra pep in his step it’ll benefit the Coyotes and make his transition to his new team that much smoother.

“That’s where my head is and what my goal is,” Galchenyuk added. “I’m training really hard and preparing myself for it. I can’t wait to get it started.”

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