Alex Galchenyuk was drafted third overall by the Montreal Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena in 2012, and now his career is circling back to where it all started after the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.
"That was definitely something special, being drafted there. Seven years later, I'm a Pittsburgh Penguin," he said on a conference call Sunday afternoon. "It's surreal. You can't really explain the emotion that I have.
"I remember it being a great sports city, one of the best in the country. I remember how great the fans are, even from the draft experience and then playing the Pens. I'm just super excited to be on a different side now. Definitely looking forward to it."
The Penguins sent Phil Kessel, Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round draft pick to Arizona in exchange for Galchenyuk, a forward, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, a defense prospect.
"I had a great week of training and then was just enjoying the weekend, and then I saw on my phone I got a text from (Coyotes GM) John Chayka that said to call him," Galchenyuk said. "I told my girlfriend, I'm pretty sure I just got traded.
"So I called John, which I respect that I heard the news from him first. Then it was emotions and when (Penguins GM Jim Rutherford) called, it became reality. I'm definitely excited and I can't wait to get started."
Galchenyuk said his phone has been "blowing up" with calls and text messages ever since, including one from Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
"I got a text from Sid, which was a big moment for me," Galchenyuk said. "It was definitely exciting. Then (Alex) Goligoski, who I played with in Arizona, he texted me saying it's a great city and a great locker room. So that was also good."
The 25-year-old is a young, skilled player coming off of a season where he led all Coyotes with 19 goals (tied) and nine power-play goals, while his 41 points were third-best on the team.
Prior to his lone season with Arizona in 2018-19, Galchenyuk spent the first six years of his career in Montreal, where he tallied 255 points (108G-147A) in 418 games - which includes one 30-goal campaign in 2015-16 and two 50-point seasons in '15-16 and '17-18.
"I think just my offensive abilities, using my shot," Galchenyuk said when asked what he can bring to Pittsburgh. "Playing with great players, it's just an unbelievable opportunity for me."
While Galchenyuk is a natural center, he spent last season playing the wing and expects to do the same in Pittsburgh.
"Right or left, I don't think it would be that big of a difference," he said. "I think obviously you look at the centers of the team and they're top centers in the league, without a doubt. Whether it's the right or the left side, I'm sure I'll adapt pretty well."
Galchenyuk said he's not going to put any added pressure on himself to make up for the offense that Kessel brought.
"I always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform the best," Galchenyuk said. "I'm definitely looking forward to this new step in my life and 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 to this opportunity to come to Pittsburgh and a winning culture, and just enjoy my time there and work hard and help the team get to the ultimate goal, which is the Stanley Cup."