Penguins Predictions: What is Alex Galchenyuk’s upside? | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins Predictions: What is Alex Galchenyuk’s upside?

Jonathan Bombulie
1516216_web1_gtr-galchenyuk2-063019
AP
Arizona Coyotes center Alex Galchenyuk (17) in the second period during an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.

This isn’t the kind of thing a general manager would trumpet about the marquee piece he just acquired in a deal for a three-time all-star winger, but it’s something Jim Rutherford easily could have said when he picked up Alex Galchenyuk in the Phil Kessel deal in June.

Galchenyuk is a nice, safe addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins attack.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Galchenyuk has played seven seasons in the NHL and averaged between 0.48 and 0.72 points per game in each of them.

He’s scored between 17 and 19 goals each of the past three seasons. He’s netted exactly nine power-play goals in three of the past four years. He’s scored at least 10 even-strength goals in each full season he’s played.


Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they’re a solid baseline. The chances the Penguins will look back on the trade and consider it a colossal mistake are slim.

What the Penguins are hoping for, of course, is that Galchenyuk takes those baseline numbers and leaves them in the dust.

It’s happened before. The 30-goal, 56-point season Galchenyuk turned in with Montreal in 2015-16 stands as a tantalizing glimpse of the player’s upside.

“Alex has scored in the past,” Rutherford said in June. “He’s very capable of scoring goals and if he plays to the level he’s capable of, he should be a guy that contributes a lot of goals.”

That’s a much sexier thing for a general manager to say.

THE QUESTION

Alex Galchenyuk has averaged 18 goals and 42 points per season in his NHL career. This season, his numbers will be:

MULTIPLE CHOICE

A. Better than average

Galchenyuk is coming to an environment that is much more conducive to scoring than he’s used to. The Montreal teams he played on were built around goalie Carey Price and rarely visited the top half of the league offensively. He commonly played with Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec. He was moved from center to wing and back. Last year, Arizona was a decidedly defensive club. With the Penguins, Galchenyuk will be asked to simply play on Evgeni Malkin’s wing and score some goals.

B. Worse than average

While stapling a winger to Malkin’s hip sometimes produces James Neal, it also sometimes produces Sergei Plotnikov. In his last year in Montreal, Galchenyuk’s most frequent center was Jonathan Drouin, a supremely talented player. When they were on the ice together at even strength, the Canadiens were outscored, 36-12. This chemistry business is not an exact science.

C. About the same

While it’s tempting for the Penguins to look at Galchenyuk’s consistent numbers over the past few years and call them his floor, perhaps it’s his ceiling, too. It’s entirely possible that a 20-goal, 45-point winger is what he is now and always will be. His even-strength numbers could get a boost playing with a proven scorer like Malkin, but his power-play numbers could take a hit because he’ll be less of a focal point on special teams than he has been in the past.

THE PREDICTION

A. Better than average

Galchenyuk has a couple of intangible factors working in his favor with the Penguins. First, his age. Despite being in the league for seven years, he’s only 25. It’s a common age for goal-scoring wingers to have a breakout season. Second, his contract status. Galchenyuk is in a walk year. Derick Brassard notwithstanding, that usually lights a fire under a player. Finally, the pressure’s off. Like Kessel before him, Galchenyuk won’t be asked to carry the Penguins, just complement them. It looks like a formula for success.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.