ST. PAUL — Everything about winger Alex Galchenyuk screams fixer-upper, and the Wild are hoping they can do their best impression of HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines to get him back on track.
Taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, the polarizing 26-year-old showed flashes of emerging as a legitimate sniper in the league before his career hit an impasse.
He has vastly underachieved since producing 30 goals and 56 points for the Canadiens in 2015-16 at age 21, failing to come close to those kinds of numbers ever since, and getting traded off to the Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and, on Monday, the Wild.
That’s where this reclamation project picks up for Wild general manager Bill Guerin.
“He’s one of these young kids that came into the league and instantly had a major impact,” Guerin said. “It’s our job to help built him back up and resurrect his career and find his scoring touch again.”
It was a rather unceremonious Wild debut for Galchenyuk on Tuesday night. He landed in the Twin Cities around 2 p.m. and had some time to drop his bags off at the hotel before putting on a suit and dashing over to the Xcel Energy Center for a game against the Vegas Golden Knights, which the Wild won 4-0.
There wasn’t much time to learn systems, so Galchenyuk treated it like he was a kid playing in the backyard, simply reacting to his surroundings instead of overthinking his every move.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Galchenyuk, who played on the second line alongside Luke Kunin and opposite Mats Zuccarello. “I think the adrenaline and the excitement helped. If there was none of that, it would have definitely been harder. Just looking forward to taking it easy (on Wednesday) and then getting back to work.”
As far as opportunity goes, Galchenyuk should garner more playing time with the Wild. He already is penciled into the top half of the lineup, a welcomed change considering he was buried in the bottom half of the lineup with the Penguins.
Adding to his urgency, Galchenyuk’s contract expires after this season, so he has 26 more games to prove to the Wild that he deserves to be a part of their future.
“I expect scoring goals out of myself,” Galchenyuk said. “Obviously, I don’t have that (many) to this point this season (five in 46 games). I’ve done it for a few seasons, so I know I can put the puck in the net. It’s just about working on it and building my confidence.”
There’s reason to believe Galchenyuk could rediscover himself as he begins playing for his fourth team in three seasons. He has 108 goals and 147 assists for his career. Still young — he turned 26 on Wednesday — he already has played 418 games in eight seasons, making an immediate impact in the NHL as an 18-yer-old rookie.
“He’s trying to do all the little things to get back to where he was before,” Guerin said. “You look at it and he’s the No. 3 overall pick and has had success in this league. Sometimes a guy needs to make a few stops along the way before he finds some place where he’s going to have success. Maybe it’s here.”
Asked specifically about Galchenyuk after the Wild’s win over the Golden Knights on Tuesday, coach Bruce Boudreau was optimistic about what he has seen so far.
“He’s a highly skilled player and highly touted player that hasn’t really found his way yet,” Boudreau said. “If we give him the opportunity, I think good things will happen for him.”
The rest falls squarely on Galchenyuk’s shoulders. He is excited for the new beginning, and knows he has to make the most of it.
“It’s hard not to talk about it with me being on four teams in three seasons,” Galchenyuk said. “But I can’t be focusing on that. I have to stay positive. I know what kind of player I am, and what I can bring to a team, so it’s just about me going out there and showing that.”