Unless you follow the Penguins like I do, you will probably be watching the game on October 8th saying to yourself “Who the heck is #61?” or “Wait, I thought Nick Spaling was #13.” Well this article is going to clear all of that up real quick.
First of all, let’s start out by informing you who is NOT on the Penguins any more (aka, might wanna ditch the t-shirts/jerseys of these guys):
Centers: Brandon Sutter (traded to Vancouver Canucks), Max Lapierre (Free Agent)
Wingers: Craig Adams (Free Agent), Blake Comeau (signed by Colorado Avalanche), Steve Downie (signed by Arizona Coyotes), Nick Spaling (Traded to Toronto Maple Leafs), Kasperi Kapanen (traded to Toronto Maple Leafs), Daniel Winnik (signed by Toronto Maple Leafs)
Defensemen: Paul Martin (signed by San Jose Sharks), Christian Ehrhoff (signed by Los Angeles Kings), Scot Harrington (traded to Maple Leafs)
Goalies: Tomas Greiss (signed by New York Islanders)
So the question becomes: who fills the empty spaces with all of these guys gone?! Well here is your little “cheat sheet” for all the new guys:
Phil Kessel – RW – #81 (acquired from Maple Leafs) age: 27
-This was the biggest splash of the off-season in the entire NHL. Kessel is a pure goal scorer, and he is more than likely going to be playing with one of the best NHL players of all time in Sidney Crosby. Phil Kessel has played 8 full seasons in the NHL (this excludes the lockout year 2012-2013). Of those 8 seasons, Kessel has scored 30+ goals 5 times. To make things more impressive, he did this in Toronto with very average linemates and with a team that has been underperforming for years. Put him with an elite center like Crosby, and who knows what Phil Kessel’s ceiling could be.
Nick Bonino – C – #13 (acquired from Vancouver Canucks) age: 27
Jim Rutherford was the one who traded Brandon Sutter to the Penguins, and he played will in his stint with the Pens. Jim Rutherford was also the man who dealt Sutter yet again, and in that trade acquired this man: Nick Bonino. Bonino spent his last 2 NHL season with the Ducks and Canucks respectively, tallying 88 points and 37 goals in that span. Bonino will take Brandon Sutter’s place as the 3rd line center, and Bonino has put up better numbers offensively than Sutter over the past 2 years. Let’s hope Bonino continues his success with the Penguins.
Sergei Plotnikov – LW – #61 (signed as a free agent from Lokomotiv) age: 25
-Sergei Plotnikov played in the Russian hockey league (KHL) for his entire career, up until this point. He wanted to come to the NHL. Plotnikov has 68 goals and 146 points in 300 games in the KHL, with a career high of 24 goals in 2007-2008. Not only does he have decent numbers, but he has a heavy shot and he can hit people. Hard. So, why the Penguins? From Plotnikov himself, he said that Malkin reached out to him and would help him through the process, and this made the difference for him in choosing Pittsburgh. He doesn’t know English very well yet, so…
Ladies and Gentlemen: get ready for some more “Malkin interviews.”
Eric Fehr – C/RW – #16 (signed as free agent from Wahsington Capitals) age: 30
-You won’t see too much of Eric Fehr at the start of the season. He is battling a wrist injury that will keep him out for the first month or so of the season. When he comes back, Fehr will be a great presence to the Penguins’ bottom 6. He is a big guy, but he can score goals too. Last year, Fehr established his second best point total (33) and goal total (19) of his NHL career. Also, if the Penguins deal with injuries to their top 6 forwards, I would not be surprised to see Fehr on the first or second line if need be.
Matt Cullen – C – #7 (signed as free agent from Nashville Predators) age: 38
-Matt Cullen’s better years are definitely behind him, but this guy is still an effective NHL player. Some “yinzers” bashed Rutherford, saying that Cullen is just “the new Craig Adams.” This is entirely not true. Cullen is far better than Adams, and a team like the Penguins will absolutely value his PK ability and his vertan leadership. Even in the latter stages of his career, Cullen tallied 25 points and 7 goals last year in only 62 games. If he puts up those kind of numbers as the Penguins 4th line center, that would be quite the season for the 38-year-old veteran.
Adam Clendening – D – #2 (acquired from Vancouver Canucks) age: 22
-When the Penguins traded Brandon Sutter, they received Nick Bonino, and this guy: Adam Clendening. Although the Penguins were thankful to get Nick Bonino in the trade, many experts say that the biggest “piece” of this trade for the Penguins was Clendening. He is a very young guy at 22 years old, and he has made his case in the preseason to possibly crack the roster. In 2013-14, Clendening posted an incredible 12 goals and 57 points in 74 games in the AHL. He hasn’t necessarily been able to show that ability in the NHL yet, but he is young, and the Penguins believe this guy can be good. He has lots of potential, and hopefully Clendening performs well in the black and gold.
Sergei Gonchar – D – #55 (signed to a professional tryout *PTO*) age: 41
-Well, this guy isn’t completely a “new guy,” but he is new this year. The Penguins decided to give Sergei Gonchar another shot. He is not guarantee to make the team, but I believe that he will. Gonchar may have lost a step, but he can provide a veteran presence on the back end and be a great mentor to the likes of Maatta, Pouliot, and Clendening. Also, Gonchar can still run a power play. He was known for that throughout his career. If Gonchar makes the team, don’t be surprised to see him on the power play, likely with the second unit.
Daniel Sprong – RW – #41 (drafted by Penguins in 2nd round of 2015 NHL Draft) age: 18
The Penguins drafted Daniel Sprong in the second round knowing they were getting a steal. Sprong has crazy offensive abilities. He may only be 18, but he has jump and an NHL shot. The concern about Sprong mainly came with his 2-way play. He isn’t the most defensive minded guy. Everybody thought he would be in juniors this year, but his play in the preseason is making the coach’s decision difficult. If you read my article that I published yesterday, you know I am very high on this kid, and I think he is going to be something special, whether he plays this year, next year, or even the year after that. Look out NHL.
Tyler Biggs – RW – #42 (acquired from Toronto Maple Leafs) age: 22
-Tyler Biggs will start the season in Wilkes-Barre, and will probably stay there throughout the season. Biggs, unfortunately, has not had much success since coming into the AHL. He put up 26 goals and 53 points in 60 games in the OHL the year before he was drafted, but has only put up 9 goals and 14 points in his last 104 games in the AHL. Sometimes, certain players just need a change of scenery…let’s hope that’s the case with Biggs. If he can find his form he had in the OHL, Biggs could be a solid player in the future.
Tim Erixon – D – #44 (acquired from Toronto Maple Leafs) age: 24
-Tim Erixon is yet again another former 1st round selection that has the potential to be a solid defensman. He has played a decent amount of games in the NHL, but he has not necessarily been anything special. In 93 NHL games, Erixon has 2 goals, 12 assists, and 14 points, posting a -3 in that span. Similar to Biggs, the Penguins hope he can improve his game and establish his full potential. Erixon will start the season in Wilkes-Barre, but if the Penguins defensive corps deals with injuries, he has a chance to play a few games in the NHL considering he has some experience.
Once again, thank you to everyone who keeps up with my blog! Now, in case you didn’t know about some of the new guys, now you do!
Tomorrow will be my “Bold Predictions” article, so keep an eye out for that as well.