The Penguins announced Thursday afternoon that they claimed 23-year-old forward Zach Boychuk off waivers. Boychuk, a 5-foot-10 Alberta native who has spent parts of five seasons with the Hurricanes organization, had been playing with the Charlotte Checkers, Carolina’s American Hockey League player-development affiliate.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero confirmed to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi that Boychuk would not be available for Thursday night’s game in New York against the Rangers. Shero said it was likely Boychuk would join the team prior to Saturday’s home game with the New Jersey Devils.
Boychuk was leading Charlotte with 32 points in 37 matches; the fleet-footed winger has skated in 73 career NHL contests, generating seven goals and 11 assists while averaging just over 10 minutes of ice time. The Penguins put defenseman Matt Niskanen on injured reserve to create roster space for today’s acquisition.
Boychuk’s presence gives the Penguins and coach Dan Bylsma more options when constructing line combinations. Eric Tangradi was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s home loss to the Islanders, handing Dustin Jeffrey his first opportunity of the young season. With Pittsburgh struggling to get offense from anyone not named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, more lineup shuffling could be in the offing.
Carolina’s first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft (No. 14 overall), Boychuk received his best opportunity to establish himself in the Hurricanes organization in 2009-10, when he dressed for 31 games and accumulated nine points (3g, 6a). He played in 23 games the next season, but his NHL action was limited to 16 contests in 2011-12.
In Pittsburgh, Boychuk could find himself anywhere from the fourth line with Joe Vitale and Craig Adams to riding shotgun with Malkin and Neal. Or he might play both roles in the same night, if Bylsma’s recent in-game tendencies continue.
Either way, it’s better than the AHL. What remains to be seen is if Boychuk is better than the Penguins’ other options at forward.