Jordan Staal never thought his summer vacation schedule would take him to Pittsburgh.
Or that he’d be golfing with Mario Lemieux and a bevy of other superstars.
Staal arrived in Pittsburgh on Wednesday for the first time since the Penguins chose him with the second-overall pick at Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s bee a whirlwind,” he said. “To come down here and be able to experience the city and see the rink and all that stuff has been a lot of fun.”
Staal is impressed with Pittsburgh.
“It’s an amazing town,” he said. “It seems like a great place to be and I am real excited.”
He was especially overwhelmed with the unique view of the city coming through the Fort Pitt tunnel on his way to Mellon Arena from the airport.
“Yeah, that was quite a sight to see. I never expected that,” he said. “It was pretty neat – all of a sudden you’re coming through the tunnel and then you’ve got a huge city right in front of you. It was definitely a neat experience.”
The Penguins were high on Staal before the draft, but he had no idea where he’d wind up.
“I was thinking, but I really had no idea. I knew they were interested,” he said. “They never told me anything. I was a little nervous, but anxious to get it over with and I am glad I am here.”
Staal feels fortunate to be part of a young, talented team that features Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Colby Armstrong, Ryan Whitney – among others.
“There’s a lot of great talent here and they are still young,” he said. “Hopefully, I can make an impact in the next couple years and be a part of this team and really make an effort to win the Stanley Cup.”
Staal, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is listed as a center. However, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle, Staal wouldn’t mind moving to the wing to play on a line with those young stars.
“They are great players. There will probably be a lot of empty-net buries for myself. Just to be able to be in the same locker room as them will be quite an honor,” he said. “Wherever they put me, I will be happy as long as I get to play. Whether it’s center, left wing, right wing or wherever.
“I have always played center, but I played a little left wing and I don’t mind playing left wing,” he said. “At center, you get to see the puck a lot more. Left wing is fine for me, too.”
Staal will focus on his golf game the next couple days while playing in the 2006 Mellon Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational at Laurel Valley Golf Club. The event is not open to the public. Staal insists he won’t trade his hockey sticks for golf clubs anytime soon, though.
“No, not at all,” he said with a laugh. “I try [to golf well]. I may look professional, but I am not.”