“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
-- George Eliot
Frankly, we never thought we would be doing a preview on Stan Galiev. Drafted in the third round in 2010, his career seemed to have stalled in 2014 after spending two seasons shuttling between the Hershey Bears in the AHL and the Reading Royals in the ECHL. While he performed well with the Royals (28 goals in 60 games over two seasons, plus another five in 13 post season games), he did not impress with the Bears (three goals in 33 games over two seasons; no playoff appearances). Making it all the way to the NHL seemed a bridge too far.
Last season, however, Galiev took a step forward. He started the season with the Bears, but he got off to a sluggish start with just one goal and one assist through his first 11 games. Then he took off. Galiev recorded eight goals in his next eight games that served as a springboard to what would be a big season. He finished with 25 goals in his last 56 games after going without one in his first 11 games, and he ended the season as the league leader in power play goals with 15. He added a goal in five playoff appearances.
On the way through his AHL season, the shuttle took him up, not down the organization ladder. With the season winding down, the Caps lost a trio of forwards in quick succession. Jay Beagle suffered a shoulder injury in mid-March that would cost him the last 14 games of the regular season. Eric Fehr was lost to an upper body injury in early April. Tom Wilson took a puck to the head trying to block a shot against the Detroit Red Wings.
With the forward ranks thinned, Galiev was called to Washington on April 7th. He made his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins the following day. He logged just under ten minutes of ice time, and while he did not record a point, he was something of a good luck charm as the Caps shut out the Bruins, 3-0.
Galiev’s first NHL point would come in his second game, the regular season finale against the New York Rangers. The game got out of hand early for the Caps, the Rangers taking a 3-0 lead after less than 23 minutes were played. The Caps got within a pair in the second period, but the Rangers added an empty net goal with less than two minutes in regulation. That was not all for the scoring, though. With the clock ticking down to a half minute to play, Brooks Orpik took a pass from Mike Green and skated the puck deep into the Ranger zone. From below the goal line he sent the puck across to Galiev in the corner to the left of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Galiev sent the puck back out to Michael Latta and headed to the net as Latta fired. The shot went wide, but the puck caromed to the other side of the net where Galiev was approaching after having stumbled and then knocked to his knees by Keith Yandle. Galiev got inside position, knocked the puck down, pulled from forehand to backhand, and tucked it inside the near post to light the lamp for the first time.
Last season certainly is something on which to build. Galiev has not lacked a skill set – he recorded 65 goals in 151 games in junior hockey. The question has been whether he could stand the physical grind of a regular shift and a long season. What he showed last season at Hershey in leading the league in power play goals was an opportunistic streak. Ten of his 25 goals were the games’ first goal – tops in the league – and six of his goals were game-winners, putting him in the top-dozen in the AHL.
Cuz, he’s not going to get those power play minutes with the big club, even if he makes the roster. And that’s not a certainty. Two games isn’t much of a resume, at least not enough to write his name in pen above his locker. He was just sixth on the Bears in even strength goals. He appeared in just five of the Bears’ ten postseason games, suffering an upper body injury in a series-clinching win against Worcester in the first round. Durability is something he is going to have to contend with at this level. Oh, and Peerless...think that 41 goals per 82 games thing in that chart means much?
The Big Question… Can Galiev make another big step upward?
Stan Galiev was a prospect that looked to have been passed by. Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked to be the young forwards to watch as last season progressed, and one had the feeling that Galiev might not be extended a new contract when his entry level deal expired. His big year in Hershey and snapshot, two-game trial with the Caps earned him a two-year deal that he signed in July. The two-way deal (in the first year of the contract) gives the team some flexibility with regard to his eligibility for reassignment to Hershey. However, he has an opportunity to make the club out of training camp with Nicklas Backstrom’s status uncertain. To the extent he gets ice time, it would seem likely, even with Backstrom out of the lineup, that he would be getting fourth line minutes.
In the end…
There is a bit of urgency attached to the question of whether he can make another big step upward. He has a winger breathing down his neck in Hershey in Jakub Vrana, another player with an impressive skill set whose career arc would seem to be that of “scoring line winger” in the next few years. Even with the likelihood of getting fourth line minutes if the opportunity presents itself early in the season, he cannot have the same sort of slow start he had in Hershey last season. It could be a cue to return him to the Bears, and if he finds himself spending the large part of the season in Hershey, turning 24 years old in January, he could find himself being caught and passed by on the depth chart again. He might not have a better opportunity to show what he can be.
Projection: 22 games, 2-3-5, even
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America