DULUTH - Chris Zarb stood at the window in street clothes watching the Gwinnett Gladiators practice last week at the Ice Forum in Duluth.
The defenseman out of Ferris State was sitting out that day with a minor injury. Zarb just shook his head as Pat Galivan made a fancy move and scored during one drill. When a former rival comments about your talent, it carries weight.
Zarb and Galivan played against each other in college and all the way back to their midget hockey days in the Midwest. They're teammates now and Zarb is still impressed with Galivan's game.
"He's a smaller statured player, but he's got an unlimited amount of skill," Zarb said. "He's real slick with the puck.
"Even in practice, you think you're going to be able to hit him and somehow he slips out of the way. He's just real sneaky out there. He's definitely a goal scorer."
Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle has compared Galivan, listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, to former ECHL MVP Jeff Campbell.
One of Galivan's two goals this season was Campbell-like in its execution. Just two minutes into the Gladiators' first road game, the Oak Park, Ill., native rolled down the left wing, went wide to beat the defenseman and snapped a shot into the back of the net.
"That's a goal-scorer's goal," Pyle said. "You know he can snipe and those guys are hard to find."
Galivan's five points in five games lead Gwinnett rookies and tie him for fourth among first-year ECHLers. Three of those points have come while working on the power play with two of Gwinnett's premier playmakers, Brad Schell and Scott Mifsud.
The 23-year-old is still adjusting to his spot in the slot after being more of a setup man at Western Michigan. Galivan, who put up 47 points in 41 games for the Broncos last season, created plays from the half-wall and is now charged with finishing in the trenches.
"I'm more of the shooter and the guy in front of the net," he said. "It's been working pretty well so far, but I'm still learning the position and where to be all the time."
Pyle likes what he's seeing and wants to get Galivan involved in the penalty kill soon.
"He's got so much potential that you want to see him learn the little things here so he can go on," Pyle said.
Galivan was getting quite a bit of interest from ECHL teams early this summer, but not a ton of AHL teams had called. Then his hometown Chicago Wolves made an offer and Galivan signed a two-way contract with the Wolves and Gwinnett. He was invited to the Atlanta Thrashers' prospect development tournament in Traverse City and did well there.
"It was good," Galivan said. "I got a lot of playing time. I had a couple nice assists and played mostly in every situation for them. Definitely it was a good warmup going into Chicago's camp."
But after getting injured on the first day, Galivan wasn't ready to play again until right before Gwinnett's season opener. Missing his chance to impress the Wolves' brass could have affected Galivan's attitude. It didn't.
"I thought maybe if I start out in the East Coast, it's fine and I'll just work my way up," he said.
Pyle expects Galivan to flourish here in Gwinnett's systems and start making a case for call-up.
"If we can get him to bear down and be more selfish - and I don't mean more selfish in a stupid way, but just shooting the puck and driving the net - I think over three or four months, you'll see a big difference," Pyle said.
Galivan adjusted quickly to the pro game in the offensive zone and just needs to be a bit more defensively responsible.
"He's got great hands and he's real shifty," Pyle said. "The one thing I need him to do just a little bit better is in the defensive zone and being smarter if he's the third guy down low.
"Supporting and not turning pucks over, that's going to get him out of this league and onto the next level. He still does a lot of things well. He's a great kid and he works hard."