Coming to a team loaded with big-name goal scorers and point producers, there’s plenty of opportunity for a player like Harry Zolnierczyk.
Zolnierzcyk was acquired by Pittsburgh in the offseason in a trade for defenseman Alex Grant. He split last season between Norfolk and Adirondack in the AHL, and the Philadelphia Flyers. Soon after the trade, Pittsburgh signed the 25-year-old Zolnierczyk to a one-year, two-way contract.
Coming to a team like Pittsburgh that is loaded with offensive talent, Zolnierczyk sees plenty of opportunity for players who like to bang, agitate and play physical on one of the bottom two lines.
“Your top two lines here are arguably the six best players in the league,” he said. “For guys like myself — agitators, bangers and fighters, they’re needed to kind of complete the team.
“I know there’s an opportunity for me here in the bottom six, and ultimately I’m looking to take one of those spots.”
Last season, Zolnierczyk posted 68 penalty minutes in 61 AHL games and a whopping 36 PIMs in seven games with the Flyers. A physical third or fourth line player is a role that Zolnierczyk enjoys and he has no qualms about playing a little bit chippy.
“Love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said.
But in Pittsburgh’s training camp, it can be tough for a physical player to show his physical side without hurting a teammate.
That’s why Zolnierczyk is eager to see some action in at least one of Pittsburgh’s six exhibition games.
“You have your practices and scrimmages and I still try to take the body as much as I can, but when the puck drops for an exhibition game, that’s when things really matter,” he said.
Prior to joining the Pittsburgh organization, Zolnierczyk spent the first three seasons of his pro career with the Philadelphia organization. He appeared in 44 games with the Flyers, posting three goals and 71 penalty minutes.
Late in the season, Philadelphia traded Zolnierczyk to Anaheim, marking his first time with a new organization. It was a trying time for Zolnierczyk, who was hoping for an NHL shot with his new club.
“It was a little bit frustrating because the trade came and I was sent down (to Norfolk) the same day,” he said. “To not get an opportunity to prove yourself with the big club was disappointing.
“But I was extremely happy about the trade to Pittsburgh this summer. I’ve heard great things about this organization and it’s a great fit for a player such as myself.”
A place where there may be a place on the NHL roster for Zolnierczyk’s physical style, and a chance to regain the stability he had during his time with Philadelphia.
“You build your resume when you’re with an organization and that sticks with you,” Zolnierczyk said. “But this is a fresh start here and I’m looking forward to building a reputation and making it stick.”