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Who’s playing center in Montreal next season?


skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.

Bruce Bennett

This post is part of Canadiens Day on PHT...

The Montreal Canadiens have been searching for a big number one center for years, so when the team selected Alex Galchenyuk third overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, you can understand why the fan base was so excited.

But five years into his professional career, Galchenyuk still hasn’t established himself as a dominant center. He’s been able to produce solid offensive numbers, but he keeps bouncing between center and left wing because his coaches don’t seem to trust his defensive game.

The 23-year-old began the season at center and was playing pretty well (he was in the top 10 in league scoring) when he hurt his knee in Los Angeles on Dec. 4. The injury kept him out of the lineup until Jan. 14. Once he returned, it was clear that he wasn’t the same player.

Galchenyuk struggled down the stretch. Once the postseason started, Claude Julien had him playing on the wing on the fourth line. During their first-round exit against the Rangers, the forward managed just three assists in six contests.

There were plenty of rumblings about him not being back with the Habs. Reports suggested that the Wild and Devils were two of the teams looking to acquire him via trade. But in the end, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin decided to re-sign Galchenyuk to a three-year, $14.7 million deal.

Now, it’s up to the young forward to show Julien that he’s capable of making the necessary adjustments to play a smart brand of hockey in his own end.

If Galchenyuk can’t make it at center, Montreal might have a serious problem on their hands. Other centers on the roster include: Tomas Plekanec, Phillip Danault, Torrey Mitchell and Michael McCarron.

Sure, some have suggested that Jonathan Drouin could get a look down the middle, but that’s something he hasn’t done very much at the pro level.

Plekanec is still a useful two-way player, but his offensive production simply isn’t where it once was. Danault was one of the pleasant surprises of last season, but he’s also probably better suited to play on the third line.

It would be great if Bergevin could pull off a blockbuster trade to address that area of need, but adding a top end center at this point of the summer is far from easy.

The Canadiens will likely have to roll with what they have for now. Does that mean Galchenyuk gets another shot at center? Only time will tell.