While he appears to have a strong chance of landing one of the Penguins’ top six defensive spots, the Minnesota native is approaching camp as if he hasn’t earned anything yet.
“It’s just like any other training camp,” he said. “I want to come in here and have a good camp, make a good impression and get ready for the season. That’s what I plan on doing.”
Goligoski has made a strong impression so far. During a scrimmage, the 24-year-old blueliner battled captain Sidney Crosby
for position in front of the net. The two fierce competitors fought hard atop the crease.
"(Goligoski) wants to show everything he's got and he's battling,” Crosby said. “I don't think anybody out here is going through the motions. We're preparing ourselves. Battling and being intense is all a part of that. The more guys we have like that, the better it will make everyone."
Goligoski took it as a "welcome back.”
"It's good to be back," Goligoski said. "The season started, the summer is over. It's just being competitive and it's good to feel a stick in your back or shoulder, it's something you don't feel in the summer. It helps you work on your balance."
I kind of know what to expect and seeing how this league works for 40 games. Playing the game more and not thinking so much. Knowing what I’m capable of is a little better after you’ve played a few games. Hopefully I’ll just keep building off of that. - Alex Goligoski
"(Goligoski) woke up (that) morning knowing he was going to be paired against Sid in some of the drills so this wasn't the first training camp that they've gotten into a battle down low," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's human nature, a competitive nature and both Sid and him have it. It was great to see."
Goligoski is an offensively gifted defenseman and his talents have really shone in camp, particularly in the team’s “Black and Gold Game.” During that intra-squad contest played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Thursday night, Goligoski recorded a hat trick to lead Team Black to a 3-2 victory.
“It was a fun game to play,” he said. “It’s nice to come back (to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and show the fans some of the guys from Pittsburgh. It shows the relationship that they have with the NHL clubs.”
Goligoski’s first two goals were a testament to his shooting ability. On the first, he took a backdoor feed from Crosby and roofed the puck. On the second, Goligoski faked a shot, waited for a lane to open and then ripped another top-shelf score. For the hat trick tally, Goligoski simply threw the puck towards the net. It then caromed off of a skate and trickled across the goal line.
“It was kind of one of those nights,” he said. “I was getting lucky bounces and that’s the story half the time. (On the second goal) I was trying to open a lane up and get it to the net. There were so many guys at the net I don’t think the goalie even saw it.”
Goligoski got his first extended taste of hockey at the National Hockey League level last season when he logged 45 games for Pittsburgh, recording 20 points on six goals and 14 assists.
But with the Penguins’ log jam of quality defensemen, Goligoski spent the end of the regular season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I think he was good enough last year to stay here,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “He played really well the first 20, 25 or so games. Then when (Sergei Gonchar’s) wife was having their second baby, he flew in for the game in Florida and played like he’d been there all year.”
Goligoski joined the team during their postseason run and even appeared in two games (and recorded an assist) against Washington in the conference semifinals.
“The playoffs are a different story with the pace, especially that series,” Orpik said. “It was wide open and end-to-end. He stepped right in and it seemed like he’d been there all year. He’ll get more and more confident with every game he plays. He’ll just keep getting better and better.”
“Alex Goligoski will add something to our defense in terms of being able to skate and get up ice,” Bylsma said. “Our defense is going to look different but it adds to the way we want to play with getting up ice with speed, having our defense join the rush.”
Now that Goligoski has experienced the NHL, he wants to make a permanent place for himself on the Penguins’ roster. All that’s left to do now for Goligoski is earn that roster spot.
“That was huge for coming into this year,” he said of last season. “I kind of know what to expect and seeing how this league works for 40 games. Playing the game more and not thinking so much. Knowing what I’m capable of is a little better after you’ve played a few games. Hopefully I’ll just keep building off of that.”