Alex Galchenyuk excited to tackle tough task after trade to Penguins
In explaining his rationale for trading winger Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night, general manager Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add players to his locker room who weren’t content with their accomplishments and were excited to be Pittsburgh Penguins.
He checked those boxes with Alex Galchenyuk.
The 25-year-old forward isn’t exactly walking into the easiest situation in Pittsburgh.
The team is looking to bounce back after a humbling first-round playoff exit. He’ll be replacing a popular and productive player in Kessel. He’ll have to find a fit on a line with superstar center Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, which is something not every new addition has done seamlessly.
Yet if he had any trepidation about donning black and gold, he did a masterful job keeping it to himself in a conference call with reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m definitely excited and I can’t wait to get started,” Galchenyuk said.
There is pressure being the player essentially asked to fill Kessel’s shoes, but that’s nothing new for Galchenyuk. He was picked third overall in the 2012 draft and played the first six years of his career under the glare of the Montreal media spotlight.
Galchenyuk is of Belarusian descent, but he was born in Milwaukee while his father played minor-league hockey there. As such, he has played in high-stakes environments internationally for the United States in the World Championships and World Junior Championships.
“I always put pressure on myself to perform the best,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m definitely looking forward to this new step in my life. I feel ready for it, physically and mentally. Timing is everything, and I feel this is the right time to come to Pittsburgh.
“I’m just really looking forward for this opportunity to come to Pittsburgh to a winning culture. Just enjoy my time there, work hard and help the team get to their ultimate goal, which is a Stanley Cup.”
At times in his career, the debate about which position Galchenyuk should play has reached a deafening volume. Hundreds of newspaper column inches were devoted to the topic in Montreal.
Don’t expect that to continue in Pittsburgh. The team and player both seem to agree he’s best suited for a top-six winger role.
“I think coming in, I’m definitely really focused on playing wing,” Galchenyuk said. “Playing wing, for me, I don’t think right or left will be that big of a difference. Obviously you look at the centers the team has, the top centers in the league, no doubt. Whether it’s the right or left side, I’m sure I’ll definitely adapt pretty well.”
Galchenyuk said he was enjoying a relaxing weekend after a hard week of training when he received a text message from Arizona GM John Chayka asking him to call back Saturday night.
“I told my girlfriend, ‘I’m pretty sure I got traded,’” Galchenyuk said.
He was right, of course, and he said by the time Rutherford called to welcome him to Pittsburgh, the excitement had already set in. He soon received a text message from Sidney Crosby, and a call from Arizona teammate Alex Goligoski, an ex-Penguins defenseman, talking up the town he will now call home.
The draft was held in Pittsburgh when Galchenyuk was chosen. In that sense, his career has come full circle.
“I remember being a great sports city, one of the best in the country, and how great the fans are, even from the draft experience,” Galchenyuk said. “As a player, I remember how passionate the fans are. I’m just super excited to be on a different side now. I’m definitely looking forward to it. As a city, it’s a beautiful city, hard-working people, it fits me very well.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .