Photo by Rena Laverty
For USA Hockey National Team Development Program blueliner Owen Gallatin, there was a huge difference between his Under-17 and Under-18 years.
It started with locking down that defensive part of being a defenseman.
“In my U17 year, I struggled in the D-zone with the strength, closing out guys and making plays defensively,” said Gallatin. “This year, I really picked it up. I think the weight room has been a huge help for me. I have gotten a lot better at closing out plays and winning battles in the D-zone and getting pucks up the ice.”
He was quick to credit two things — watching video and working hard in practice — as a huge reason for the difference in his play.
“The coaches do a really good job with the film,” said Gallatin. “They show clips from the game, whether it was we did something wrong or we could do something better. We can definitely learn from that and then we translate that into practice and into games.
“In practices, we were constantly working on our angles and closing out time in the defensive zone. It’s a huge part of our team’s style of play. We are a defensive-first team. That has been a huge part of our practice and development over the last two years.”
In addition, due to his work with director of sports science Brian Galivan in the weight room, he also added almost 10 pounds of muscle to his 5-foot-8 frame.
“When I came in last year, I was 150 pounds. When I weighed in this year, I was 165. I didn’t put on any fat. I have gained at least 10 pounds of muscle since last year,” said Gallatin.
The U18s finished the season with a 29-17-0-1 record, but more than numbers, the team really felt it had taken a step forward on the ice this season. Gallatin credits the team confidence as playing a big role in that development.
“So much of our success this season has been systematic,” he said. “The systems last year at the beginning of last year were all brand new to us. Coach [Seth] Appert really drilled it into our minds, over and over again. We are finally clicking with the systems and putting it to use. We have also gained more confidence so we can put skill into the systems. We have created more chances that way. Combining our skill and the coaches is what has really done it for us.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
Gallatin, who finished his NTDP career with four goals and 27 points in 103 games, really understood the expectations of him when he was out on the ice skating for Team USA.
“I had to play solid in the D-zone and move pucks up the ice quick,” he said. “It was important to be a puck-moving defenseman, get clean breakouts and then, contribute as much as I can in the offensive zone. It’s all about playing defense first.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
One of the highlights of the season for Gallatin was playing the college games. He was able to see the benefits, especially as the season progressed.
“The older and tougher competition was good for us,” he said. “It really has helped when we went back to the USHL. I think our team has done really well against the college teams this year, especially since we ended on a four-game win streak. That was really positive that we were able to pick it up. We struggled with the first few games, but we found a way to win.”
He did have one favorite game from the team’s schedule.
“The Michigan game,” he said. “Yost Arena was packed and the stadium was buzzing. We ended up pulling out a 4-1 win and that was a really fun game.”
Gallatin, who started skating on an outdoor pond when he was a year old back in his hometown of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, plans to continue his career a few hours’ drive north at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. It was an easy decision to return to his home state.
“I chose UMD because their coaches have proven to develop players to be NHL-caliber, even if they come into the program not likely to make it to the show,” he said. “The city really supports their hockey team and the fans are great at the games. It’s a great place to play hockey.”
After seeing his season cut short, Gallatin leaves the NTDP with plenty of memories, but one will always stick out.
“My best memory was winning gold in Sweden with the boys [in early November]. It showed how far we’ve come since the start of our 17s year, and it was a team effort,” he said.
He understands that it was his hard work and dedication that helped him down this path.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.