He spent the first part of the season in Pittsburgh, where he played less than 12 minutes a game, significantly less than the one-time 30-goal scorer averaged earlier in his career in Montreal. His ice time was inconsistent, which can make it difficult to find a rhythm.
That changed in February, when he was dealt to center-needed Minnesota as part of the deal that sent Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh. Ice time wouldn’t be a problem here. Finally, Galchenyuk started to produce. He had seven points in Minnesota’s final 11 games leading up to the league’s suspension in mid-March, and scored in two of the Wild’s final three games.
“I definitely think I was finding my game, playing better and better,” Galchenyuk said. “Not just me personally, us as a line, as well, and as a team. We had a lot of momentum going in, so we’ll make sure we try to pick up where we left off. Obviously it was four months ago, but a lot of things happened, so it seems like it was a few years back.”
Wild coach Dean Evason loved the compete level Galchenyuk flashed before the break, noting the center competed and “didn’t shy away from tough spots.”
Galchenyuk has bounced around a bit in the league positionally, shifting between wing and center.
“He has a high skill level, and if you combine that with that intensity and that compete level, he’s a real good player,” Evason said. “We believe he’s found a spot in the middle of the ice for us.”
Which fills a hole this team desperately needed to be filled.
“It’s clear, the center ice position is very, very important. We’re real happy with what he’s able to provide us up the middle,” Evason said. “He’s been on different clubs in the last few years and bounced around the last little bit. I think he’s comfortable, and not complacent; I think he’s comfortable around his teammates, he’s comfortable within our system and he’s playing not complacent. He’s playing hungry. But he looks like he’s having fun playing hockey.”
Galchenyuk said he has been given “a great opportunity to succeed” in Minnesota, and he is happy his game started to turn the corner.
“I was happy I was a difference in those big games. you always want to be a big part of success, and I think that’s my game too, to bring offense even though it was a down year at the start,” Galchenyuk said. “But I think I was heating up more and more and that momentum I’m going to try to bring in the playoffs.”
If he does that, Galchenyuk could earn himself a big payday this offseason when he hits free agency. But that’s a concern for a later date.
“My main focus — and it still is — is just to go out there and think about getting back in shape, getting that hockey feel back, working on the chemistry with the line mates and trying to be the best I can in the playoffs,” he said. “I think thinking about free agency right now is literally pointless for me. It’s just extra weight that is pointless. Not thinking about that. But saying that, I love it here, love the guys, the team, everything. So hopefully (I’ll be back in Minnesota next season). We’ll see what happens.”