Late-round steals make big playoff impact

Despite success in the WHL, Brendan Gallagher was not selected until the 147th overall pick (2010). Francois Lacasse/NHLI/Getty Images

It’s funny the things you remember from the biggest moments in your life. On the day he was drafted, taken with the No. 147 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Brendan Gallagher was at home watching the draft on television. He’d been given the heads up that he would be a late-round pick despite scoring 41 goals in 72 games for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, so his expectations were in check.

When the phone finally rang, with the Montreal Canadiens on the other line, Gallagher had just taken a big bite of a grilled cheese sandwich. He had a mouthful when Canadiens scout Vaughn Karpan let him know he was now joining a franchise with one of the deepest and richest histories in the NHL.

“I told my mom and she told the neighborhood,” Gallagher said between games in New York last week.

Despite doubters everywhere else because of his size, the selection by the Canadiens further validated Gallagher’s internal expectation that he was an NHL player. It was something he believed from the moment a few teammates suggested the idea in a van on the drive home from a hockey tournament when he was 10 years old.

They planted the seed, but his unshakable belief let the idea flourish. Instead of wishing he was 6-foot-4, he used his size to his advantage. The words of his father, who reminded him that he wasn’t built to play on the outside, always echoing in his head. Get into the corners. Get to the front of the net.

It’s the only path to the NHL.

“Every year, you try not to get too far ahead of yourself, you're really just training for that year,” Gallagher said. “In the back of your mind, you know you’re training for the National Hockey League."

At least, that’s what Gallagher thought. Another late pick making a huge impact in this postseason wasn’t quite so confident.

New York’s Carl Hagelin was selected by the New York Rangers with the No. 168th overall pick in the 2007 draft, an absolute steal in the sixth round.

In his mind, he’s the classic late bloomer.