Forward Zach Boychuk heard via Twitter that he has been claimed on waivers Thursday morning. However, it wasn’t until Penguins general manager Ray Shero called him, that Boychuk knew where his new destination would be.
“(Shero) said he likes what I bring to the team. He said I have to play my game, speed and shot,” Boychuk told the Pittsburgh media following his first practice with the team Friday. “It’s just a new opportunity. It was good to talk to him.”
|Boychuk at his first practice with the Penguins Friday afternoon|
Until Thursday, Boychuk was a member of the Carolina Hurricanes – the team that drafted him 14th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. In his five professional seasons, Boychuk has split his time between Carolina and Charlotte of the American Hockey League.
Boychuk never caught on with the Hurricanes, but a change of scenery may just what the 23-year-old needs to fulfill his first-round potential.
“It’s something that I needed. It’s nice to get a change,” Boychuk said. “For me, I want to be a full-time NHL player. I feel like I have the skills to do that. Now that Pittsburgh is giving me that opportunity, I hope to take advantage of it.”
The Penguins were certainly impressed by Boychuk’s skill.
“He’s not a huge guy, but he’s a guy that sticks his nose in there, is affective with his speed. He does have some skill,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s a guy that hasn’t yet shown that at length in the NHL, but a guy who continually puts up big numbers in the American Hockey League with that speed and grit on the wing.”
Boychuk will see his first action in a Penguins uniform Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils. And he’s been penciled in alongside the superstar duo of Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. But no matter where he’s expected to play, Boychuk is just happy to get in the lineup.
“For me to jump into a game (Saturday) is the best way to do it,” Boychuk said. “I don’t want to be waiting and getting anxious. I want to get right into it. Getting to play with Malkin and Neal is pretty exciting. Hopefully, I can show my stuff and help the team.”
Boychuk, who drove to Pittsburgh from Carolina Thursday, will have a lot of new things to learn with a new city, new team and new teammates. But there is one familiar face in the crowd.
Penguins center Brandon Sutter has played with Boychuk in three junior tournaments (U-17, U-18 and World Junior Championship) and the two were teammates for three-plus seasons in Carolina.
And not only is Sutter a long-time friend of Boychuk’s, he’s also reoccurring landlord.
“I stayed at his house in Carolina. He’s got an extra room for me right now too,” Boychuk said. “I’ll go stay with him for a while. It’s great to be back with him. We’ve been friends for a long time.”
Sutter will not only be Boychuk’s landlord, but his ambassador to all things Pittsburgh and Penguin related.
“It’s nice to have a familiar face around. It’s funny how we got reunited,” Sutter said. “He’s going to stay with me for a few weeks until he finds what’s going on. That’ll be nice.
“It’s tough to come into a new place. I had to go through it a few months ago. I know my way around a little bit so I’ll do my best to show him where to go.”
Boychuk put up impressive numbers this season with Charlotte. He was leading the Checkers in scoring with 32 points (16G-16A) in 37 games. He’s put up big numbers in the AHL. Now he needs to translate that production in the NHL. And he has the assets to do just that.
“I have speed and can go and get pucks. I feel like I can make plays,” Boychuk said. “It’s exciting to come to a team with a lot of superstars and hopefully I can bring something good to the team.”
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