“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”
-- Mark Twain
Stanislav Galiev was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals (86th overall). Six years later, he has 26 games of NHL experience. Of his draft class, 68 players have more NHL experience, including Christian Thomas, immediately ahead of Galiev on that list with 27 games of NHL experience. Those two might be competing for the last forward spot on the Capitals roster before Opening Night and perhaps even into the regular season.
Thomas comes to Washington as his fourth team in four seasons after being taken with the 40th overall pick in that 2010 draft by the New York Rangers. For Galiev, the Caps are the only NHL organization he has ever known, but this season represents a critical point in his professional hockey career. He is in the second year of a two-year contract that will leave him a restricted free agent at seasons’ end.
If head coach Barry Trotz is true to his word, Galiev will get that opportunity to make a more lasting impression than he has done in his 26 NHL games to date:
“We want to give some opportunity to our kids. They’ve made great progress, and I think they’ve earned that right to challenge for spots, and I think we’re not going to block them.”
With Jason Chimera having headed off to the New York Islanders, Michael Latta in Los Angeles with the Kings, and Mike Richards seeking employment elsewhere, there would appear to be room for a forward, even with the addition of Lars Eller. While many of the lines and roles are set, Galiev should not face the logjam in front of him that has stunted his progress. His problem now is the clot of players in a similar situation fighting for the same spot. Newcomer Brett Connolly, Thomas, even perhaps up-and-coming Jakub Vrana will be competing with him for one of the few open roster spots. At 24 years of age, it might be premature to say that this is Galiev’s last opportunity to cement a permanent roster spot, but those opportunities are certainly dwindling as prospects such as Vrana, Riley Barber, or Zach Sanford could be competing for that spot Galiev has not been able to lock down.
For someone who has as few games as Galiev has at this stage of his career, one has to look at other things and in other places for sources of optimism. First, there is that 2014-2015 season in Hershey in which he tied for the team lead in goals (25) and led the AHL in power play goals (15). Then there is last season. Yes, he appeared in only 24 games. Yes, he failed to score a goal in any of them. Yes, he had only three points (one in his last 18 games). But in those 24 games, averaging only nine minutes a game, he did record 14 hits (as many or more on a hits-per-game basis as Daniel Winnik and Justin Williams), four blocked shots (as many on a blocks-per-game basis as Chimera and Latta), and four credited takeaways (more, on a per-game basis, than Tom Wilson and Chimera). It shows, on a limited basis to be sure, a willingness to try to do other things to contribute.
You wonder if in the back of some front office minds they look at Stanislav Galiev and think “Mathieu Perreault.” It took Perreault four years in the organization to get his first taste of the NHL, and it was another two seasons – at age 24 – that he finally appeared in more than half the team’s games. He never recorded more than 30 points, though, and he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for John Mitchell, a player who never played a game for the Caps or any other NHL team. Perreault has gone on to record three straight 40-plus point seasons with the Ducks and the Winnipeg Jets. Perreault was a far more prolific scorer in juniors than Galiev, but he never came close to replicating Galiev’s best goal-scoring season in the AHL (16 in 56 games in 2009-2010 to Galiev’s 25 in 67 games in 2014-2015).
The Big Question… Is this Stanislav Galiev’s last, best opportunity to secure a permanent roster spot?
There are three parts to that question. First, it could be the “last” opportunity, but it would seem that those who would answer in the affirmative with a measure of certainty are speculating more than evaluating. Still, Galiev is going to be 25 years old in January. That window on securing that roster spot is closing. Second, the matter of it being his “best” opportunity seems to be on firmer ground. The Caps have had a history of growing from within in the post-2004-2005 lockout era, and it does not appear that the Caps under Brian MacLellan’s leadership as general manager is much different in this regard than his predecessor, George McPhee. If the competition is close among those competing for the last couple of forward spots on the roster, perhaps the nod goes to the player who has climbed through the system since his draft day. The last part is the “secure a permanent roster spot.” The phrase “with the Capitals” was left off intentionally. Galiev does have a skill set that suggests he would get a look from a team with less offensive depth than the Caps if this is his last opportunity to finally get his permanent roster spot here. But as much or more than in any of his six (soon to become seven) seasons in the organization, Galiev controls his own destiny.
In the end…
Stanislav Galiev was a 29-goal scorer in the USHL (in 2008-2009 in 60 games with the Indiana Ice). He was a 37-goal scorer in Canadian juniors (in 2010-2011 in 64 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs). He was a 23-goal scorer in 46 games in the ECHL (in 2012-2013 with the Reading Royals). He was a 25-goal scorer in 67 games in the AHL (with Hershey in 2014-2015). There is a pattern there; every other year he has posted good goal-scoring totals at increasingly higher levels of play. That’s not to say he is going to blossom into a 20-game scorer this season with the Caps, but it is indicative of the tantalizing potential he has exhibited at each level at which he played. It might be, though, that the NHL is just one rung on the professional ladder too high for him. He has to demonstrate that he can stick on an NHL roster before those thoughts of significant production are entertained. The urgency of that task makes this season an opportunity that needs to be seen and seized by Galiev.
Projection: 20 games, 1-2-3, even
Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America