Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When the Montreal Canadiens selected Alex Galchenyuk third overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they expected him to be their franchise center for the better part of a decade. Unfortunately for both sides, that didn’t work out as planned. Last summer, the Canadiens shipped Galchenyuk to Arizona in exchange for Max Domi. After one year with the Coyotes, GM John Chayka decided he was willing to move Galchenyuk to Pittsburgh for Phil Kessel.
So what gives? Why has a talented youngster like Galchenyuk been on the move so much? And what can the Penguins expect from their 25-year-old sniper?
The Penguins have made it pretty clear that Galchenyuk is going to be playing on the wing. One of the big issues with Galchenyuk and his development is that he moved from wing to centre back to wing quite a bit. In Montreal, there was an expectation that he’d play down the middle. But defensive-minded coaches like Michel Therrien and Claude Julien didn’t trust him enough without the puck.
Galchenyuk had a 20 and 30-goal season in Montreal, but they eventually decided that they needed a change in attitude and he was traded away.
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He battled injuries in Arizona and he never really got to make the impact everyone expected to make on a young Coyotes team. Chayka didn’t give Galchenyuk away, but the fact that he was willing to unload him so quickly speaks volumes.
There’s no denying that Galchenyuk has talent. His hands and release are unbelievable. He’s big and loaded with skill. He’s had some success at the NHL level, but it’s now time for him to make a real impact on a team that should be a contender.
If everything goes according to plan, Galchenyuk should get an opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. He won’t have to carry his line, but he’ll need to make sure he puts the puck in the net more than he ever has.
“You look at the roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s no surprise that anywhere you play, it’s going to be really exciting,” Galchenyuk said in June, per NHL.com. “Playing wing from right or left, I don’t think that would be that big of a difference. … You look at the centers that this team has (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin), top centers in the league, no doubt.
“Whether it’s the right or the left side, I’m sure I’ll definitely adapt pretty well.”
Now that he’s on his third team in three seasons, the pressure is definitely on Galchenyuk. With his skill-set, he should be a consistent 30-plus goal scorer, but that hasn’t materialized yet. In fairness to him, it’s not like the teams he was on traded him away for nothing, but he can’t keep jumping from team to team if he wants to be known as one of the better finishers in the NHL.
“Playing with great players, it’s just an unbelievable opportunity for me. I put pressure on myself to perform my best.”
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Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.