(PRESS RELEASE: Penguins Sign Alex Goligoski)
It wasn’t an easy decision for Alex Goligoski.
Stay at the University of Minnesota, where he was one of the top defensemen in college hockey and had one year of eligibility remaining, or leave to play professional hockey with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After weeks of mulling those two choices, the 21-year-old picked Pittsburgh – and he couldn’t be happier.
|Alex Goligoski |
“Definitely. I think since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a professional hockey player,” he said. “It’s definitely a great situation for me with the Penguins organization. I am excited about it.”
Goligoski, the Penguins’ 2004 second-round draft pick (61st overall), excelled the past three seasons with the Golden Gophers. He tallied 98 points (25+73) in 117 games. Last season as a junior, he earned First Team All-American honors by RBK and United States College Hockey Online. He ranked tied for third on his team in scoring with 39 points (9+30) and led the team in assists while competing in all 44 games for Minnesota. In addition, he ranked first in the WCHA and second in the nation in defenseman scoring and first in the WCHA and fifth in the nation in points per game among defensemen (0.89).
He was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-WCHA First Team selection. His accomplishments during the season also earned him Most Valuable Player honors as selected by his teammates.
So, naturally, it was tough to forego his senior year, especially when he wanted to help Minnesota win an NCAA championship. Yet, it was not hard to pass up a chance to join the pro ranks with the Penguins organization.
“That’s exactly what it was – two great situations,” he said. “I think, at the end of the day, it’s what I need to do for my hockey development. I am ready for something new, in that sense. I am just really excited to get down there and meet everyone and get everything going.
“I would have loved to have finished my degree and there is a very good situation here at the University of Minnesota. But, at the same time, I came to the University of Minnesota to play hockey, really. My ultimate goal is to play hockey for as long as I can. It was the right move on my part, as far as hockey development. I am really excited to get in there and start learning from the guys and coaches and take that next step.”
|Alex Goligoski |
The 6-foot, 187-pounder enjoyed a very successful season despite being hampered by a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The left-handed shooting defenseman had shoulder surgery to repair the injury and is pleased with his rehabilitation.
“Toward the end of the year, it was pretty much getting tweaked and slipping every game, sometimes multiple times per game. It got really tough and frustrating because you didn’t know when it was going to happen and it just would. It’d feel like your arm would go numb for a couple minutes and then you’d feel OK again,” he said. “It was just one of those things that was really frustrating. It’s something I needed to fix and I am glad I did because my shoulder feels great now. Hopefully, I will get cleared by the doctors before training camp.”
Goligoski is on course to have full medical clearance by the time the Penguins open training camp in September.
“We’re at almost three and a half months now and it feels great. I am out on the ice now and stuff,” he said. “The doctor’s diagnosis was like six months, but I think that was on the conservative side. Hopefully, by five months – actually right at training camp will be at five months – so hopefully then I can get the green light to go.”
The injury prevented him from taking part on the Penguins’ recent summer conditioning camp.
“It’s kind of a tough situation. I wanted to go down there and everything, but I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with my shoulder,” he said. “I am really looking forward to getting down there and meeting the guys and seeing what the professional game is like.”
Goligoski returned Tuesday from his first-ever visit to Pittsburgh to sign his contract. He was impressed with the city.
“I stayed downtown, so I went and looked around a little bit. It’s a pretty cool city,” he said. “There are a lot of old buildings. I got to see PNC Park and Heinz Field and they were really nice, too.”
He’s even more impressed with the Penguins’ collection of young talent.
“Absolutely. I think hands-down they have the best young core in league and are maybe one of best teams in the league,” he said. “It’s definitely exciting to think about maybe playing with those guys some day.”