Jake Guentzel’s first week in the NHL produced two goals in his first game, one on the first shot of his first shift, and an assist in his hometown Twin Cities. Guentzel, the former Hill-Murray standout and son of Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel, put together one of the best NHL debuts in Pittsburgh Penguins history Monday, and just days later he made his first pro appearance in Xcel Energy Center against the Wild just miles from where he grew up in Woodbury. The Star Tribune’s Jason Gonzalez chatted with Guentzel about his exciting first week in the league.
Q You scored on the first shot of your first NHL shift. What do you remember about the play?
A I just tried to use my speed wide and try to get a rebound shot, but fortunately it got under the pad. I just expected a rebound, maybe, and see what happens after that. But once I saw it go in, it was pretty crazy. It is definitely something to remember the rest of my life.
Q You impressed a lot people in your first NHL game. What were you expecting out of your debut?
A I wasn’t really expecting much. So I was fortunate where they put me and I just tried to make the most of it.
Q You scored 62 seconds into your first game and stunned your family. Their reaction went viral. What did you think of it?
A They’ve done a lot for me, so it was good to see them happy and celebrate like that.
Q How did you celebrate?
A I was more in shock with how it happened in the first shift and all that.
Q Describe your second goal.
A Four-on-two rush and I was the backside guy trying to stay in front of the net and the rebound came out to me. I just tried putting it home, and I was fortunate it went in.
Q How was the postgame celebration with your family?
A It was special. Just handing my parents the puck and [thinking about] all they’ve done for me, and having my brother [Ryan] there that has been a mentor for me lately, it’s just a unique situation.
Q A lot happened in your first week in the NHL. Have you had time to reflect on it?
A Kind of a crazy week — to play at home [in Pittsburgh] and Madison Square Garden [in New York City] and then come home [to Minnesota]. Three good rinks to open your career. Obviously playing in Minnesota is pretty crazy timing. Not the outcome we wanted, but it was a fun trip.
Q What was it like playing your first NHL game at the X?
A There were some nerves, but I was more excited after growing up around that rink. It was a dream come true for sure. There were probably about 50 people I got a text [message] from that said they were there and that stayed after waiting for me.
Q You grew up around former Gophers star Phil Kessel, and on Monday he assisted both of your goals. Did he give you a hard time?
A He was just happy for me. I think it’s funny that I was on the ice with him when I was younger when he played for the Gophers, and now playing with him is pretty special.