October 25, 2011
It turns out Alex Galchenyuk might not have a draft season at all.
The talented centre, who was considered Top 10 pick timbre entering the season before he went down with a knee injury after crashing into a goal post Sept. 16, will have surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) this week. The Sting are expressing optimism Galchenyuk, 17, who was supposed to form a dazzing draft-year duo with OHL scoring leader Nail Yakupov, might make it back by the end of the season, it doesn't sound good. (Bob McKenzie of TSN called it, "Probably season-ending.") Galchenyuk is not the first top draft prospect to have his season truncated by injury — here one thinks of Brett Connolly going No. 6 overall in 2010 after a hip injury and surgery kept him to 16 games in the WHL — or even the first this season. On the latter count, the best defenceman in the Western league, Everett Silvertips' Ryan Murray, is out six weeks with a high ankle sprain. The spectre of missing a whole season, though, seems a notch higher. One does wonder why it took nearly six weeks to figure out Galchenyuk needed an operation.
From Sting coach-GM Jacques Beaulieu, in a statement:
Unfortunately, injuries like this are a part of the game. Our thoughts are solely with Alex at this time as this was very difficult news to receive. We will be providing Alex with the best care possible as he begins his rehab towards getting back on the ice. We are very hopeful Alex will be back in the lineup towards the end of the regular season. (press release)
Galchenyuk, whose 80 points last season were far and away the most of any 16-year-old in the Canadian Hockey League, would have to rehab his surgically repaired knee in less than five months to meet Beaulieu's target date. It does not take Will Carroll to know that would sounds like a pretty speedy recovery, even for an athlete. Plus the play was pretty gnarly, as video from TV Cogeco Ontario shows:
One also has to presume Galchenyuk, with so much at stake as a 17-year-old NHL draft prospect, would not some back until the re-injury risk was fairly minimal. This probably won't be a 2011 hockey equivalent of a 23-year-old Michael Jordan rushing back from a broken foot for the Chicago Bulls in 1986 and having the team limit his minutes until he was up to speed.
There are manifold examples of players who lost a significant amount of time to injury in their draft season. Connolly, now looking like a good bet to stick in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a 19-year-old, was that player in the 2010 draft class. One of the players taken ahead of him, current Florida Panthers 19-year-old rookie Erik Gudbranson, was limited to 41 games with the Kingston Frontenacs that season by a knee injury and mononucleosis. Current Ottawa Senators rookie and former Spokane Chiefs captain Jared Cowen missed 24 games to a knee injury in 2008-09, but still went ninth overall on draft day. As Guy Flaming pointed out recently, being injured will not cause a player to drop in the draft as much as other factors could.
How will these injuries affect the draft stock of Galchenyuk and Murray? Using the examples above, it might not hurt them all that badly. Cowen, like Murray, was the top ranked defenceman in his draft class at the time he was hurt. He did slip to Ottawa at ninth overall but that is still a top-10 pick.
Brett Connolly went sith overall and both (Ottawa Senators first-rounder Matt) Puempel and (defenceman Connor) Murphy were taken in the early 20s during the 2011 draft. Could any of the above have gone a couple spots higher if not for the injury they had? Sure... but it's not like they plummeted out of the first or even second round.
Drops like that are more often based on character and questionable conduct. (Coming Down The Pipe!)
A smart NHL organization will use due diligence and figure out if there is a long-term health concern.
A prolonged injury could cause him to slide into the top 15 picks, but probably not lower, Yessie said.
"Because there's just too much talent there. He's got elite level vision as a playmaker, but he also has the hands to score and score goals in tight areas." (Sarnia Observer)
A knee can be made good as new. Being out so long, though, will make Galchenyuk the curiosity of his draft class, ultimately.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).