Penguins claim Canes' Zach Boychuk

Pittsburgh swoops in when forward lands on waiver list

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 1, 2013 

— Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk were first-round draft picks by the Carolina Hurricanes – Sutter in 2007, Boychuk in 2008.

Now, they’re teammates with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sutter went to the Pens in June in the big trade that brought center Jordan Staal to the Canes. Boychuk, placed on waivers Wednesday by the Canes, was claimed Thursday by the Penguins.

“It’s part of the process. We knew it might happen,” Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said Thursday. “I’m happy for him, that he’s getting another chance. We had hoped that he could have cleared, that we could have kept working on his development.”

Had Boychuk cleared waivers, he would have been reassigned to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate. But the Pens picked up the 5-foot-10, 185-pound winger, who had 16 goals and 16 assists in 37 games for Charlotte this season.

Boychuk said he received a call a few minutes after noon from Ray Shero, the Pens’ general manager.

“He said he was looking for speed, that he wanted me to come in and play my game,” Boychuk said. “He said I’d get the opportunity to play with some great players, that I should just play my game and take advantage of it.”

Boychuk, 23, appeared in Carolina’s season opener against the Florida Panthers but was a healthy extra the past four games. He played left wing on the top line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin against Florida.

With the NHL regular season starting quickly, Canes coach Kirk Muller inserted Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman – three forwards who played in Charlotte during the lockout – into the lineup for the opener.

“They had played half a season already,” Muller said. “I don’t think the intention was from the start that (Boychuk) was going to be a No. 1 left winger. We wanted to have a way the first couple of games to help the veteran guys with some of that young speed.

“Overall, I’m happy for him. When you look at the type of player he is and the personnel we have, it was tough to fit him in.”

The 14th overall pick in the 2008 entry draft, Boychuk scored seven goals and had 11 assists in 73 career NHL games with the Hurricanes.

“I think I had an ample opportunity with Carolina, especially the last few years,” Boychuk said. “Getting 70-some games was pretty exciting for a young guy like me. I want to be a fulltime NHL’er but there were some guys ahead of me. I played the first line, second line, third line, fourth line and at the end it was tough not playing (as a scratch). So it’s exciting to get a new opportunity

“I’ve played against (Pittsburgh’s) Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and now I’ll have the opportunity to play on a team with them. Playing with Staal and Semin was great, something I’ll definitely remember, and I’ll take those kinds of great experiences with me to Pittsburgh.”

Boychuk, from Airdrie, Alberta, played two NHL games early in the 2008-09 season before being sent back to his junior team. He played 31 games in 2009-10, 23 games in 2010-11 and 16 last season.

Asked what kept Boychuk from becoming an NHL regular, Rutherford said: “With us, it was his consistency. We feel for him to be successful he needs to play in the top six (forwards) and he just didn’t get to that level with us yet.”

If the Pens place Boychuk on waivers later this season, the Canes would have first claim on him. Rutherford said they would use that option, if that occurs.

“Who knows, he may do well in Pittsburgh,” Rutherford said.

Boychuk was driving to Pittsburgh on Thursday after a draining 24 hours – on waivers, waiting and wondering.

“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “Obviously it’s nice to know I’m going to Pittsburgh and get a new opportunity in the NHL. At the same time, it’s tough to leave some great teammates and people who have treated me so well all of my career at Carolina.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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