Canadiens rookie Brendan Gallagher won't back down | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaCanadiens rookie Brendan Gallagher won't back down

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 | 12:42 PM

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Brendan Gallagher (73) of the Canadiens slips the puck past Devils netminder Martin Brodeur for his first NHL goal on Jan. 27. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images) Brendan Gallagher (73) of the Canadiens slips the puck past Devils netminder Martin Brodeur for his first NHL goal on Jan. 27. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Despite his diminutive size, Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher has played the same way as he did in junior and put himself in the mix for the Calder Trophy as top rookie.

This season's early checkpoint game for undersized rookie Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens was back on Jan. 27 at home against the New Jersey Devils.

It was the 5-foot-9, 178-pound Gallagher's third NHL game. He already had endeared himself to the Habs faithful with his robust play and willingness to take on opponents of any size.

On this night, he skated down the ice on a 2-on-1 break with fellow Montreal rookie Alexander Galchenyuk. His teammate slid a pass over that Gallagher one-timed past future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur for his first career goal.

Gallagher has not looked back since the milestone marker. He's a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy as top rookie -- and he's right in the mix of the top freshman point producers: 

  1. Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA -- 28 points (14 goals) in 47 games  
  2. Cory Conacher, OTT -- 28 points (11 goals) in 45 games  
  3. Brendan Gallagher, MTL -- 26 points (14 goals) in 43 games
  4. Nail Yakupov, EDM -- 26 points (12 goals) in 46 games
  5. Brandon Saad, CHI -- 26 points (10 goals) in 45 games  
  6. Alex Galchenyuk, MTL -- 26 points (9 goals) in 47 games  
  7. Justin Schultz, EDM -- 23 points (7 goals) in 46 games      
Gallagher has found a way to play with the big boys despite his diminutive size. There was a concern that the 20-year-old Edmonton-born, Delta, B.C-raised right wing would wear down as a pro because of the way he plays.
 
But that hasn't been the case. The most games Gallagher has played in a year to date was 88 in junior with the 2009-10 Vancouver Giants in their march to the conference finals against the Tri-City Americans.
 
Against much bigger foes, Gallagher will play his 80th game of the year (he played in 36 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs before the NHL lockout ended) in the regular-season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).

He's managed to play his super-pest type of role that he did in junior against much bigger opponents in the NHL. Don't let that choirboy face fool you. He chirps opponents. He gets under their skin.

He's also swiftly gained quite a reputation and has developed some on-ice feuds with foes like Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri. The two were at each other in their last meeting a couple of weeks ago.

"I don't mind getting hit when I have the puck," Gallagher told two reporters after the last Leafs-Habs game two weeks ago. He played against Kadri in the AHL earlier this season.

"I'm willing to take shots and do all the stuff in front of the net. But if it's dirty, I don't like it.

"He sits on the bench yapping his mouth, he gets on the ice and all of a sudden he's scared. I don't know what to say about that.

There's a lot of guys in this league I respect. I don't know if he's one of them."

Gallagher's production hasn't dropped off, either. In his first 22 games with the Canadiens, he checked in with seven goals and 15 points. In his last 21 games, Gallagher has scored seven more times and has 11 points.

"I feel fine," Gallagher said. "I'm holding up fine.

That's why you work hard training in the summer. You also have to make sure you take care of yourself on off-days during the season.

"You have to make sure you get your rest, eat well and all that stuff."

Gallagher is a bit of an expert in this area. His Dad, Ian, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Giants. Gallagher also remarked that he's worked closely with Habs strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard to stay on top of his conditioning. He also has benefitted from living with Canadiens veteran defenceman Josh Gorges. Is there a better role model to learn how to become a pro?

The concern about Gallagher always has been his size, not his character. Even though he hung around the Giants as a kid, he wasn't selected until the ninth round. Yet he became the junior team's all-time leading goal scorer and point getter after four seasons with the WHL club, passing one of his childhood idols, Adam Courchaine.

The Canadiens didn't select Gallagher until the fifth round (147th overall) in 2010. Yet he's already made an impact and prepared to continue to make an impact when the playoffs begin next week.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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