With Penguins Training Camp starting in just over a week (Sept 18th) now may be a good time to get one more look at the team and all the players who will be fighting for a chance to make the roster on Opening Night on October 8 against the Dallas Stars.
That’s right folks we are merely days away from the start of training camp which will be held for at least the first 3 days in the newly built Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry PA. Fans are encouraged to join in on the fun for the first few days and all that information can be found >>> HERE <<<
With that said let us take a look at those we will see on the ice partaking in the 2015/2016 Seasons training camp.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Kevin Porter
What may be the most predictable position in regards to who will play on which line the Center position has once again become a strength of the Penguins. The additions of Eric Fehr, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen has made it possible for this team to run 4 solid lines with very capable players anchoring the Center positon.
While many fans may still miss the days of Crosby, Malkin & Staal by the end of this season many will be wondering why it took so long to go this route instead.
Chris Kunitz, David Perron, Sergei Plotnikov, Connor Sheary
Returning this season are Kunitz, Perron and Sheary. All three had their shining moments last season but unfortunately, more often than not, struggled. Kunitz despite his age looks to have a bounce back season after playing through a lower-body injury nearly all year last season.
Perron looks to make a similar move in hopes that he can make Rutherford push away the buyers remorse it is said the Penguins GM developed late in the year.
Sheary may be one of the odd men out come the start of the season but all Penguins fans should keep a close eye on him through camp as he could potentially make some noise and make it very difficult for Rutherford and Johnston not to allow him to suit up for Game 1 on October 8th.
New comer Sergei Plotnikov is another interesting player to keep an eye on. Never playing a minute of NHL Hockey Plotnikov come from the KHL where he excelled in many ways using his size, vision and talents. The fact that he himself paid the 500K to buy himself out of his Russian contract so he could sign a deal with Pittsburgh speaks highly of his desire and dedication to the team and by all accounts he has proven to his teammates already that he isn’t taking this opportunity lightly.
Phil Kessel, Beau Bennett, Patric Hornqvist, Pascal Dupuis
Not sure if any of you heard but the Penguins made a very minor trade on July 1st acquiring Winger Phil Kessel. Supposedly he an excellent player who has a knack for scoring goals. I guess we will find out if that is true in just a few short weeks.
All joking aside Kessel was maybe the biggest acquisition in the NHL this off-season. Never has he had the opportunity to play with 1 Superstar center let alone two. There may be some growing pains early on while HC Johnston figures out the best pairing (Sid & Kessel or Geno & Kessel) but rest assured adding Kessel, alone, was enough to improve this team after last season.
Returning, after nearly and entire season of being on IR, is Pascal Dupuis. While no one should expect him to be the player he was prior to his blood clot scare Dupuis will surely bring his strong leadership abilities and tenacity to the rink every single night. He may no longer be a top six player but he should still be a force in the bottom six without a doubt.
Hornqvist returns after a strong first season with the Penguins. Look for his leadership role to increase as well as his production as he now has a better understanding of the Penguins system and his Centerman’s (Malkin’s) habits.
This is a big year for young winger Beau Bennett. After being drafted in 2010 Bennett was touted as being an eventual top six winger for the Penguins. Unfortunately since making his debut in the NHL Beau found it difficult to stay healthy and has had problems with either his arm, wrist or leg each season making it near impossible for him to develop into the player we all thought he would be. While he may only be 23 this is the year he needs to prove to the NHL and himself that he is able to handle the grueling Hockey season and be a productive member of the team. I fully expect him to excel this year.
Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Lovejoy, Rob Scuderi, Sergei Gonchar (PTO), Ian Cole, Adam Clendening, Nicklas Andersen, Brian Dumoulin, Tim Erixon, Will O’Neill, Steve Oleksy, David Warsofsky
The Penguins saw both Olympian Paul Martin and injury riddled Christian Ehrhoff sign with other teams this summer and instead of chasing down a high profiled Free Agent like Cody Franson or Mike Green GM Jim Rutherford has put trust in his young talented defensemen. And while he is trusting Pouliot and Dumoulin to both take strides in their development he went out and added quite a bit of depth bringing in players through trade and free agency such as Tim Erixon, Will O’Neill, Steve Oleksy, Adam Clendening, David Warsofsky and Sergei Gonchar (who was signed to a Professional Try-out).
Letang and Maatta will both be back after finding themselves out for much of the season last year due to concussion (Letang) and a shoulder injury (Maatta). Both of them will be hungry and ready to lead this young defensive core through the season.
Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy, both acquired prior to the trade deadline last season, will help balance out the defensive pairings while young players like Pouliot and Dumoulin get comfortable in an everyday role on the team.
Rob Scuderi and the rest of the defenders will all be vying for the opportunity to get ice-time and find their way on to the opening night roster.
Keep an eye on Sergei Gonchar. At 41 years old and diminished abilities I unfortunately do not believe he will make the team. However I do foresee him working with the organization in some capacity in the near future.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff, Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry
Much like the Center position Goaltending is pretty straight forward. We know Fleury will be the main man between the pipes while the back-up position is Zatkoff’s to lose. Matt Murray was very impressive last year in the AHL setting a shutout streak record and being named Rookie of the Year in 2014/15. While he may be the future back-up to Fleury another year in the AHL will only improve his game and make him a better NHL goalie in the future.
As for Tristan Jarry, he is still developing and while he may not impressed as Murray has at this point he is still young and still in the process of learning to play professionally.
There you have it folks, the players we will all be watching over the next few weeks prior to the season starting. Who are you most looking forward to seeing trying to make the team?
Thanks for Reading
– Robert Slavinsky