The Blackhawks' blue line took a big hit before Tuesday's game after they placed Jake McCabe and Seth Jones in COVID-19 protocol. The two of them had recently been partnered together on the top pairing.
Without two key pieces on the back end, the Blackhawks needed somebody to step up against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Several of them did, and one of those players was 2017 fifth-round pick Jakub Galvas.
In his NHL debut, Galvas logged 23:41 of ice time, which ranked second on the team; only Connor Murphy logged more ice time (23:45), and he did so by just four seconds.
"I'll be honest with you, I was very surprised how good he played," interim head coach Derek King told reporters following the 4-2 win. "I knew he was pretty calm with the puck, he could skate and he can make plays and he's a smart player, but he looked really good today. He stepped up. That's not easy."
Galvas made an impact in every facet. When he was on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks controlled 64 percent of the shot attempts, 64.7 percent of the shots on goal and 66.7 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
He was one of two Blackhawks that finished with positive possession numbers. The other was Alex DeBrincat, who scored his 22nd and 23rd goal of the season. It should be noted that Galvas rarely started his shifts in the defensive zone, but it was still a solid performance nonetheless.
"He looked super comfortable with the puck," said Murphy, who scored his third goal of the season that turned out to be the game-winner. "He's a good skater and that's what's hard when you initially come in as a young D-man, to be poised with the puck every night. I still have a hard time with that after years, so I think it's impressive to see."
The Blackhawks weren't shy about giving him heavy responsibility. It was associate head coach Marc Crawford's idea to put him on the top power-play unit, and even the second penalty-kill unit.
"Crow had all the faith in him," King admitted. "He said, 'Throw him on the first power play.' I was like, 'Really? I'm thinking somebody else.' And I said, 'OK, let's try him.' And it worked out, so good on Crow."
In total, Galvas logged 14:57 of ice time at even strength, 6:53 on the power play and 1:51 on the penalty kill. He finished with four shot attempts (one on goal) and two blocked shots.
Back in September, Galvas was one of the underrated standouts at the inaugural Tom Kurvers Prospects Showcase, where King served as the head coach. Nobody could've predicted that he'd get a shot at the NHL level this quickly, let alone almost lead the team in ice time in his first game.
Less than four months later, it looks like King was only half-kidding when he said this about Galvas after that tournament: "He's real smooth, he's got a big engine. He can probably play 30-40 minutes for us at our level."