Photo credit: Kyle Mace of Sweetest Hockey on Earth
UPDATE: Jason Guarente of the Reading Eagles reports that Galiev is expected to be reassigned to Hershey Thursday.
Early on Wednesday, the Hershey Bears assigned Stanislav Galiev — third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — to ECHL affiliate Reading Royals. The rookie’s demotion may come as a surprise to many – as just a couple of months ago the young Russian was rated at #29 on Hockey Prospectus Top 100 Prospects list. But to those who follow the Bears hockey regularly, the move makes sense. Since the AHL season started, Stan’s struggled to adjust his game to the pro level.
As the Bears were preparing to face the visiting St. John’s Ice Caps on Saturday, RMNB found the usually gregarious and easygoing Stan in a subdued mood. After recording just one assist in the first eight games of the season, Galiev found himself in Adam Oates’ doghouse as a healthy scratch for three of the next four games — despite scoring the game-winning shootout goal for the Bears on November 2nd. Stan talked to us about his bumpy transition away from the QJMHL, being coached by a Hall of Famer, and his search for confidence on the ice.
“It feels like there is a huge difference between playing junior hockey and pro,” Galiev said to me. “I am catching up gradually. Here everybody follows the system, everybody knows what they are supposed to do in any situation, and what everybody else is supposed to do. And there’s no getting away with stuff that you can afford to do in juniors.”
“The two things I feel the need to improve the most,” Galiev continued,” are tactical awareness, which is basically following the system, and of course, defensive play.”
Galiev, at 187 pounds, also has been adjusting to a much more physical league. This is the first time Stan has skated against grownups, and the physical play has been difficult for him. “I must keep working hard on that,” Galiev said, changing the topic to his physique. “And put some kilos on. I worked very hard on that during the summer.”
Galiev has played in North America since he was 16 years old, so it’s not surprising that the language barrier is not one of his troubles right now. Nevertheless, Stan is happy to have his fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov as a teammate. This is the first time he has had a Russian teammate since he came to North America.
“It’s really nice to have Russian guys around,” Galiev remarked. “When I was in Saint John, there were no other Russians – there was one Slovak guy [Tomas Jurko] on the team though, and I understood a bit when he spoke Slovak, and when I spoke Russian he could understand some as well. So that’s how we talked at first – in Slovako-Russian!”
With Adam Oates induction in the Hockey Hall of Fame only a couple of days away, I wondered how Stan felt about being coached by someone whose creativity and vision on the ice were legendary.
“It’s great that Adam Oates joined the coaching staff here, it’s really interesting to work with him, and everybody likes it,” a nodding Galiev said. “He was, after all, a star with the Capitals in his playing days. He helps us a lot, with great attention to details, even the tiniest ones; I think this will be a positive influence on everybody.”
Getting help and advice from a hall of famer is great – but a goose egg in the goal-scoring department a month into his first pro season is less great, especially for a youngster whose path to the NHL will depends on production. Being a healthy scratch for (at that point) two games in a row doesn’t help either.
“I am trying not to think too much about [being benched],” Galiev said. “I just need to play hockey and the goals will come. I think once it happens, it may help me become a bit more confident in myself. And not just my own confidence – hopefully the coach will start trusting me more, like in a third period of a tight game.”
Despite his struggles, Galiev, who was immediately inserted into Reading’s line-up on Wednesday, is positive things will break his way.
“Of course it is hard, but I am not going to complain,” Galiev said. “That’s what coach decided, so that’s how it should be. Maybe it’s because I made mistakes, or didn’t fully give myself to the game. But I am ready to return as soon as I am called upon.”
That’s all you can ask for.
Photo credit: Tim Stough of Sweetest Hockey on Earth