Galchenyuk’s Usage Crucial to Penguins Trade Payoff

Heading into the preseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of work to do after the active trade and free-agent signing during the offseason. Particularly, the exchange of Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk rattled the Penguins’ offense and created an area to repair before the season begins. 

Kessel was rumored to be a difficult player to coach and the trade supposedly solved this issue. Galchenyuk’s deal with the Penguins leaves him as an unrestricted free agent next summer, so in his time with the Penguins he will need to fit in on the team for this deal to be successful.

The Kessel-for-Galchenyuk trade caused a stir among Penguins’ fans, however, looking past controversy, Galchenyuk has a lot to offer. Galchenyuk is predicted to fall into either of the top two lines with captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; whether he fits in well will most likely determine his place with the team in the future.

Center Turned Winger

Galchenyuk, a 25-year-old center, recorded 41 points in 72 games last season, finishing with 19 goals and 22 assists with the Arizona Coyotes. Although he was drafted as a center, Galchenyuk has frequently been placed on the wing during his time with other teams. 

YouTube player

Before his time with the Coyotes, he spent six seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, where he recorded the best season of his career, 56 points in 2015-16. His most fruitful season happened to be when he played center and not on the wing, where the Penguins would place him.

The biggest controversy surrounding the American forward is whether to play him on the wing or at centre. While he has shown an ability to perform at both, his production is vastly superior as a centre than as a left winger, and he himself says he prefers playing down the middle.

2015-16 Canadiens season review

Because of his noted success in the center, Galchenyuk may not be effective on the wings of star players. In comparison to Kessel, he has the potential to also be a top goal-scorer; Kessel played 82 games last season and tallied 82 points, while Galchenyuk only recorded half of the points in fewer games.

Galchenyuk’s recent stats may not be as impressive, but if the Penguins somehow find a place for him, he may perform better than expected. Looking at this style, he takes chances as they are given to him and when he played in the center with the Montreal Canadiens, he excelled at taking advantage of opportunities. Both of the Penguins’ top lines create chances, even if most of the time they are shortlived or they don’t produce the desired outcome. Galchenyuk can help take those chances and give the Penguins’ a leg up.

Arizona Coyotes' Alex Galchenyuk San Jose Sharks Aaron Dell
Former Arizona Coyotes Alex Galchenyuk scores the game-winning goal during a shootout against San Jose Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Considering that the Penguins’ lost an active goal-scorer, Galchenyuk has large shoes to fill. But, the main concern moving forward will be whether or not he can play on the wing of the best players in the league, especially when he seems to perform best in the center.

The Offseason and Finding His Place

After Galchenyuk’s trade to Pittsburgh, he started to train and develop his play for the upcoming season. He started working with Mark Megna, a strength and conditioning coach, and he became known as a hard worker, ready to deliver.

So much sacrifice, time and hard work put in by (Galchenyuk) this off-season. It’s almost time to unleash the new and improved version to the world. He’s without a doubt one of the hardest workers I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Galchenyuk’s strength and conditioning coach Mark Megna

Looking at past Penguin line combinations, Galchenyuk’s drive and youth could make him a perfect candidate to play alongside Crosby. Crosby has had plenty of success with younger teammates, notably Jake Guentzel, and shaking up the top two lines may help refresh the offense.

Arizona Coyotes Alex Galchenyuk
Former Arizona Coyote Alex Galchenyuk (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ross D. Franklin)

However, his trade was intended to replace Kessel and for years, Kessel and Evgeni Malkin played well together. But this past season, they failed to deliver like they once did. Galchenyuk is younger, faster, more receptive, and more likely to perform better next to high-octane players. So, either way, his placement has the possibility to increase his skills and abilities and therefore, improve the team’s performances. Galchenyuk may even elevate Malkin’s play and help him recover from this past 2018-19 season.

It seems as if Galchenyuk is intended to play next to Malkin on the second line, but it’s important to experiment with line combinations. This way the Penguins will likely get the return on investments that they need, but also it will stretch Galchenyuk’s talent and challenge him to be a better player.