The Pittsburgh Penguins wasted little time setting their lines on the first day of training camp. The usual dismissal from coaches to avoid reading too much into early-camp combinations was replaced with forward-looking hope from head coach Mike Sullivan. Part of that equation and one of the most crucial pieces of the Penguins 2019-20 season will be the performance and production of Alex Galchenyuk.
The Penguins know what they have with players like Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang. Also, within a reasonable expectation, everyone knows Evgeni Malkin is prepared to deliver a bounceback year, too. What we don’t know is what to expect from Galchenyuk.
Friday, the Penguins put Dominik Kahun with Crosby and Galchenyuk skated with Malkin and free-agent acquisition Brandon Tanev.
“(Malkin) is so creative with the puck. I need to do a good job of adjusting when I want to open up on the ice, too, when I want to be open for him,” Galchenyuk said. “And (Brandon) Tanev is so fast. I think we can definitely get a lot of offense from each other.”
Pittsburgh Hockey Now did an exhaustive film study of Galchnyuk’s play in Arizona last season under former Penguins assistant head coach Rick Tocchet. The project did not begin as comprehensive until we began to see a fundamental change in his game at mid-season. Check out the project here.
Galchenyuk, 25, was born in Milwaukee, WI. He has a 20-goal season and a 30-goal season on his resume, but those were four and three years ago with the Montreal Canadiens, respectively. Montreal drafted Galchenyuk third overall in 2012 but was never quite satisfied. They wanted a center with a two-way game, and Galchenyuk was not so good in his own zone. He frustrated head coach Michel Therrien who occasionally spanked the youngster in the media.
Last season under Tocchet, Alex Galchenyuk appeared to add an edge and become a harder player. His performance in the second half was must different than his play in the first half (see the film study). But now the winding road has brought Galchenyuk to the Penguins door, and he has a chance to set his career on the right path. Playing beside Malkin sure could help, too.
“Every year you try to learn something new, adjust and add something to your game. I felt like I did learn (under Tocchet) and I got better,” Galchenyuk responded to PHN’s query. “But it’s a new fresh start for me.”
It will be an interesting contrast with Tanev who only scored 29 points last season, but that was a career-high.If Malkin and Galchenyuk recreate the chemistry Crosby and Guentzel have formed, or Malkin once had with Phil Kessel before Kessel’s relationship with the team deteriorated, Galchenyuk could post huge numbers.
Oh, by the way, Galchenyuk will be a free agent next summer, too.
Indeed, 30 goals and 60 points would not be out of the question. Galchenyuk has done it before. But that was before the grind of NHL expectations and demands from coaches took its toll on the player. Galchenyuk has not scored 20 goals in three seasons. He banked 17, 19 and 19 over the past three years. The first two of which were with Montreal, before Montreal traded him for Max Domi in a swap of seemingly struggling players.
Glachenyuk’s first impression of the Penguins was undoubtedly what the Penguins organization wants its identity to become.
“Great pace. Non-stop. Not much break,” Galchenyuk said.
That’s exactly what the Penguins want to become this season. Now we will all learn if Alex Galchenyuk is ready, too.