Alex Galchenyuk, Commentary

Alex Galchenyuk’s Rise and Fall

Alex Galchenyuk was a standout player with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he had 83 points in 68 games during his 2010-11 rookie season. Unfortunately, in his draft year, he had a severe knee injury and only played two regular season games for Sarnia, but he did manage to put up four points in six games in the OHL playoffs. His knee injury may have kept him from being drafted first overall in what was considered a weak draft class. However, the Montreal Canadiens drafted him third overall in 2012, and he played 48 games with them the following season, scoring 27 points as an 18-year-old.

Everything looked like it was going great for the young star, but rumours surfaced of varying types, and his attitude and play changed throughout his career. He ended up playing for seven different teams and, except for Montreal, none for more than one season. Here is a look at Galchenyuk’s career and what might have gone wrong.

Canadiens Draft Galchenyuk and Things Start Good

The Canadiens were happy to draft Galchenyuk third overall; despite his knee injury, his offensive skill and puck-handling abilities were unmatched for that year’s draft. Out of that draft class, only Morgan Reilly, who was drafted 5th, Filip Forsberg, drafted 11th, and Teuvo Teravainen, drafted 18th overall have more points than Galchenyuk’s career 354. Galchenyuk’s career started strong with 27 points in his 2012-13 NHL rookie season, playing every game in the shortened 48-game season. He improved on his point total the following season with career highs in goals with 13 and points with 31 in 80 games; he hit the 20-goal mark in the next season, 2014-15, and scored a career-high of 44 points. He was quickly becoming a fan favourite and was improving every season. This led to his best season in 2015-16, when he scored 56 points and 30 goals for the Canadiens.

Alex Galchenyuk Arizona Coyotes
Alex Galchenyuk, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After his 30-goal campaign, rumours about his excessive partying in Montreal started. The following season in 2016-17, he was hampered by several injuries and only managed to play in 61 games, but he had 44 points and 17 goals which had him on pace for a 59-point, 22-goal season if he played 82 games. Around this time, things for Galchenyuk started going sideways, more rumours arose of his off-ice habits, and others began about his father’s influence over his career. An incident also occurred in 2016 where police were called to Galchenyuk’s hotel room because of a domestic dispute; although it was his girlfriend that was arrested for assault, it made a lot of people question why he was in that situation. 2017-18 was his last season with Montreal, as they traded him to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi in the offseason.

Galchenyuk had another solid season in his first year as a Coyote with 41 points and 19 goals, but this still wasn’t enough to keep him in the desert. The following offseason, in 2019, he and Pierre-Olivier Joseph were traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a 4th-round pick in the 2021 Draft. This allowed Galchenyuk to redeem himself by playing with some of the best players in the NHL: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. This, however, did not work out as Galchenyuk only scored five goals and 17 points before being traded mid-season to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker. Galchenyuk’s contract was over at the end of the season, and he became a free agent (FA) for the first time in his career.

Related: Ex-Canadien Alex Galchenyuk: 1st Round Draft to Hockey Pilgrim

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The Ottawa Senators decided to take a chance on the now 26-year-old forward and signed him to a one-year contract in 2020. He played only eight games with the Senators before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, who sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs only two days later. He joined their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for six games, scoring eight points before being called up to the Maple Leafs. In 26 games for Toronto, he scored 12 points and another four points during six playoff games in 2020-21. This wasn’t enough for the Leafs to re-sign him, and he found himself back with Arizona, where he scored 21 points in 60 games. The Colorado Avalanche signed him in 2022-23, and he spent most of his time with their AHL team, the Colorado Eagles, scoring 42 points in 42 games. Still, he didn’t register a point with the Avalanche in the 11 games he played there.

In June of 2023, his rights were traded to the Nashville Predators, and they let him become an on July 1. The Coyotes once again decided to bring Galchenyuk back to the desert, but 13 days later, he was released from his contract. He is once again an FA but will probably not sign with another team in the NHL.

Galchenyuk’s Fall From Grace

In 2012, Galchenyuk was seen as a potential NHL superstar; he had the speed, puck skills, and offensive talent to be one of the better forwards in the NHL. This was a big reason Montreal drafted him: the Canadiens have been starved for top-level talent for decades. Even though he improved in his first few seasons, cracks were showing – issues with coaches, off-ice problems with too much partying, rumours and speculation of his father having too much influence. He quickly went from a potential star to an untrustworthy defensive liability. After his trade to Arizona, it became more obvious he never entirely became comfortable with his new teams.

Arizona Coyotes' Alex Galchenyuk San Jose Sharks Aaron Dell
Arizona Coyotes Alex Galchenyuk scores the game-winning goal during a shootout against San Jose Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

The hints of his issues were there. Former Canadiens player and coach Mario Trembley said in 2017 that Galchenyuk had been in rehab twice. The Canadiens and Galchenyuk never corroborated Trembley’s story, and Trembley would not answer questions about how he knew or if it was true. Although no one outright agreed with Trembley’s allegations, no one denied them either; general manager Marc Bergevin at the time said he couldn’t talk about it, and Galchenyuk just said he had never heard the comments. Galchenyuk has been dealing with something serious since he was 22. This would also explain why he never reached his potential and the massive drop in his production in recent years.

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Many fans and media were shocked when the Coyotes released Galchenyuk from his contract less than two weeks after his signing date. When the report revealed why Arizona so quickly terminated the contract, it only solidified the truth behind the years-long rumours that have constantly hampered him since his time in Montreal. As fans and media members, we shouldn’t concentrate on what he did or said but on what can be done for him now and in the future. He has deep-seated demons and needs all the help he can get; at only 29, he still has a lot of life ahead of him and maybe some more hockey. This is Galchenyuk’s rock bottom. He has apologized to the police and will go into the NHL and the NHLPA assistance program. Hopefully, soon, we can write redemption stories and celebrate his recovery.

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