The adjustment to the collegiate game from junior hockey for incoming freshmen is always a challenging one. For some, the adjustment time can extend for the duration of the season, while for others such as Dartmouth College rookie T.J. Galiardi, the adjustment can be relatively smooth and quick.
"T.J. broke into the college ranks and developed very quickly. He’s played center right through (thus far)," Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet told Hockey’s Future. "We wanted to keep T.J. in a natural position and we’ve left him there because he’s developed quite quickly. We’ve been very pleased with the way that he has come along."
The Calgary, AB native came to Dartmouth from the AJHL’s Calgary Royals, where he enjoyed a successful 2005-06 campaign that included a selection to the 2006 AJHL All-Star game. His 56 points and 37 assists (in 56 games) both ranked in the top 25 in the league. He also participated in the Viking Cup Tournament as a member of the AJHL South team.
Like many Canadian-born players, Galiardi had the opportunity to play in the Canadian Major Juniors, but as fate (and luck) would have it, he opted to go the NCAA route instead.
"Playing in the WHL has always been kind of the thing when you’re in Western Canada. I was actually picked up by the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the way that it just worked out was that they were in the playoffs and then they were knocked out before I had the chance to go up with them," Galiardi told Hockey’s Future. "I met my cousin Troy Stevens who went to Union College a few years back in the 1990s and he told me all about the college life. After that I met coach Dave Peters from Dartmouth and then it all went from there."
While playing in Canada, Galiardi was heavily recruited by some of the NCAA‘s top D-I schools, including Colorado College, New Hampshire and Vermont. It was more than the opportunity to play for an Ivy League school that persuaded Galiardi to choose Dartmouth. Tradition also played a big part in his decision to come to Hanover, NH.
"It’s just such a good tradition around here. You know that you’re not just playing for yourself in the here and now. You’re playing for everyone who wore the jersey before you and that’s just something that you can’t get anywhere else. The guys around here are unbelievable. The coaches here are very good and that helped my decision process."
Galiardi has superb skating ability, combining power with immense fluidness in his long strides. As he continues to develop his size and strength, the power in those strides will become more pronounced. He has outstanding mobility and very good speed, but needs a quicker first step.
Galiardi can best be described as an instinctive playmaker with tremendous scoring capability. He is very smart, patient and creative with the puck. Those features along with his great on-ice vision help make him an efficient puck distributor who can easily find open teammates. Galiardi is also proficient on draws and ranks amongst Dartmouth’s top players in faceoff winning percentage. Though he is still learning the finer points of defensive responsibility at the collegiate level, Galiardi’s play in his own end is actually quite good.
One characteristic that makes Galiardi such an outstanding player is how he is able to blend those brilliant puck skills with the mental side of the game. It is his sometimes deceptive playmaking ability that sets him apart from many younger collegiate players. What the opposition is reading isn’t always what Galiardi is thinking.
"His creativity is really becoming a big asset because he’ll make that play that people don’t expect," said Gaudet. "T.J. will make that pass and in the offensive zone, he’ll do some real quick, little things such as passes that don’t seem right there that he sees that are there."
While Galiardi is a strong competitor and has the puck skills needed to be successful at the collegiate level and beyond, being more aggressive more often in his puck pursuits would not only make him more difficult to play against but also make him a much more valuable asset to his team.
At 6’2, Galiardi is also blessed with good size and he uses that, along with his long reach quite effectively and advantageously. Two areas of his game where this is particularly evident is in protecting the puck and being able to get around opposing players.
Galiardi’s continued physical development and training are paramount to his future success, and it is something that he takes very seriously. An important part of his off-ice training regimen is running. It is an aspect of his training that is done year round. As Galiardi explains the regimen not only varies in how it’s done, but where it’s done as well.
"I’m definitely focusing on strength and just getting better at all aspects in general, but strength for sure is the main one right now. We have an unbelievable strength coach here at Dartmouth named Bob Miller, and he plans all of our workouts from start to finish, so I’ve just been following everything that he tells me to do.
"Running is really closely related to skating and it has helped me with my strength and balance. I usually go about four times a week and two of the days are "overload" days, which are like you’ll be running hills and stairs and the other two are on the track, where you’ll be doing short and long sprints. I do a lot of sprinting in the summer. I split time in the summer between Alberta and Minnesota to work out. I have a running coach in Minnesota that I’ve been working with and I work out with my cousin."
So how does Galiardi describe himself?
"I’m obviously looked at as an offensive style player but I’m responsible in my own end for sure. I’ve definitely matured in my own end lately. I’ll either be a playmaker or a goal scorer. It doesn’t matter to me, just as long as the puck gets into the net. I can make good decisions and get whomever I’m playing with just time with the puck. I have to say that I play with so much confidence that I just know in my own head that I can get something done every single night.
"There has been this misconception about me that I’m kind of a soft guy because I didn’t have any fights in juniors and stuff like that. I’m not afraid of anyone and I won’t back down no matter what. I think that’s a good thing that people should know."
Like other collegiate players, Galiardi has his favorite NHL players that influence his style of play and serve as his role models; one in particular will be very familiar to those who follow the Big Green.
"Obviously going to Dartmouth there’s Lee Stempniak, who is the prototype of Dartmouth hockey. I’ve definitely looked at his style and just everything that he’s done to get there (NHL) and I really work at that. On the ice, I’m more of a Vincent Lecavalier kind of a guy. I watch him a lot and I really enjoy watching him play. I kind of try to combine a little of what both of them do."
At Dartmouth College
Galiardi has played in all of Dartmouth’s 27 games this season, and leads the team in rookie scoring with 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists). Of his nine goals, five have come on the power play. Galiardi posted his first career (non-exhibition) point and goal in Dartmouth’s season-opening 5-2 victory over Ivy League rival Harvard back on Oct. 27. His most memorable game came back on Jan. 6 when he posted two goals in helping to lead the Big Green to a 6-2 win over RPI. Galiardi earned his first ECACHL Rookie of the Week honor back on Nov. 27 after posting four points (all assists) in Dartmouth’s back-to-back 3-3 ties versus Princeton and Quinnipiac.
Galiardi can currently be seen on one of the Big Green’s most productive lines, centering junior J.T. Wyman (MON) and sophomore Kevin Swallow. The trio, which has only been together as a line for about a month, has developed excellent chemistry through each player’s distinctive style and skill set complimenting that of the other two.
"I feel like we all think a lot alike out there. When I get the puck, I just know where they’re going to be and that makes my life so much easier as a playmaker in general," said Galiardi.
"We didn’t want to put T.J. in a position where he would play with guys that he’d be afraid of doing too much with, so we put him with players like J.T. and Kevin that would compliment him," said Gaudet. "Right now, T.J.’s line, as a piece to our team, seems to be really solid."
In college hockey, coaches and players develop relationships based on mutual respect that extends far beyond the rink. While it is no different between Galiardi and Gaudet, it is however uniquely Dartmouth.
"It’s really special that he [Coach Gaudet] went to this school. He really bears the tradition that’s for sure. He really looks out for us and just coaches with such emotion that it just shows right through him, so it makes our lives a lot easier," Galiardi said of his coach. "He really emphasis the little things to me, like you have to get the puck in deep, the importance of faceoffs and just playing smart in general. He’s always on your case and trying to get you better at hockey. He’s there to make me and the rest of the team better and we all understand that."
"Along with being a very good player with outstanding potential, T.J. is an excellent kid and has fit right in with the team. He’s earned his spot, so nothing’s really been given to him. He’s earned everything and I think T.J. understands that," Gaudet said of his young rookie sensation. "He’s really been a fun kid to have around because he’s refreshing in terms of just his attitude. T.J. is very coachable, he listens, he’ll ask questions and will try to do whatever you ask him to do."
Outlook for the draft
Early projections are that Galiardi will likely be taken in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, although he could conceivably go very late in the first round. The Central Scouting Mid-Term rankings have Galiardi ranked at No. 33 amongst North American skaters.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprinr or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.