Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2018 Pool Projections: Pittsburgh

Well, if you thought the champs were going to be popular before, the Pittsburgh Penguins added some new characters to the mix, some we didn't even see at this time last year.  At the draft last year, 14 Penguins were taken, three in the 1st round, including both starting goalies and then another pair of players in the 2nd round.  Five players in the first 50 players drafted and we may not be short of that kind of craziness again.

Okay, with Vegas getting Marc-Andre Fleury at the expansion draft, both Penguins goalies won't be taken in the 1st round of the draft, but there's still going to be a very high premium, when you consider Justin Schultz emerged as a top end defenseman in the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin wasn't drafted until the 2nd round last year.

There wasn't really a Stanley Cup hangover last year, as Sidney Crosby still scored well in the regular season, as did Phil Kessel, but two long championship runs, the questions may be asked of these guys for sure.

Nevertheless, looking down that lineup and seeing the names that are there, you have to acknowledge that there will be worse days than others, but the overall talent on this team is still pretty high and they have done well to keep a reasonable talent level at a more efficient cap hit.

Player Pos 17/18 Proj Rookie
Sidney Crosby F 90 N
Matt Murray G 90 N
Evgeni Malkin F 80 N
Phil Kessel F 70 N
Conor Sheary F 60 N
Jake Guentzel F 55 N
Kris Letang D 50 N
Justin Schultz D 50 N
Patric Hornqvist F 45 N
Bryan Rust F 35 N
Carl Hagelin F 30 N
Scott Wilson F 25 N
Matt Hunwick D 25 N
Olli Maatta D 20 N
Ian Cole D 20 N
Tom Kuhnhackl F 15 N
Carter Rowney F 15 N
Brian Dumoulin D 15 N
Ryan Reaves F 10 N
Derrick Pouliot D 10 N
Dominik Simon F 10 Y
Tristan Jarry G 10 Y
Daniel Sprong F 5 Y
Josh Archibald F 5 Y

Table last updated on August 6th

Most Intriguing or Breakout Player

Forward Jake Guentzel didn't blast off onto the scene until midway through last season and the rookie did exactly that... blast off!  In 40 regular season games, he scored 16 goals and 33 points, which still made him pool worthy by a fair margin.  His playoffs were even better, tying an NHL record for points scored by a rookie (21) and coming up a goal short of tying that playoff rookie record as well.  The kid had some real game in the spring.

There was no doubt left around how well Guentzel can line up with the team's superstars, it was quite apparent off the hop and continued on to the holy grail.  The 2018 season is going to be a test for himself and the rest of the team, but even if he does suffer from a bit of the Stanley Cup hangover, I think this kid has a real hockey pool player career ahead of him.

First Round Picks

It has been a long two seasons prior for the Penguins, but I still think these guys have it in them for another solid regular season.  Your usual suspects, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, will both highlight the opening round of the draft, but we can now confidently add Matt Murray to that list, as he is the clear number one heading into the year and he'll be playing without a safety net.

Other Pool Worthy Forwards

A good number of those solid playoff performers will be back again for another spin, keeping this team extra competitive.  Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust currently round out the remaining worthy forwards and there are still a few names that could still pop up, if they hit their stride this season.

Other Pool Worthy Defense

The defense remains fairly interesting in Pittsburgh, because as Kris Letang's health situation always remains in the air, they are grooming a very good defenseman right in behind him in Justin Schultz and I am beginning to think you can do just as well with either of them.  Of course, Letang has a little more upside, but all kinds of risk, while Schultz appears to be solid across the board.  Throw in the newly acquired Matt Hunwick, Ian Cole and Olli Maatta, and they've still got a solid squad.

Goaltending Situation

Behind Murray this year, it is a little bit more of a grey area.  Tristan Jarry has been coming up through the system and trying to earn his way to the big club, but the Penguins also took a very discounted flyer on Antti Niemi, who was splitting time in Dallas last year.  I'd like to see a kid like Jarry make the jump, as the projections show, but I get the feeling that experience will trump that and Niemi will be the guy out of camp.

Team To Pick From Late?

Beyond the names that have already spewed out in this post, I think it's still fair to consider a couple more.  Carl Hagelin can certainly be a decent option, but his health runs a risk too, while Brian Dumoulin on the back end is slowly finding his way to the worthiness conversation. These two have some good sleeper potential, if you're willing.

Unsigned Players and Salary Cap

One minor league prospect unsigned, another prospect off to the Czech Republic for the year, the Penguins are almost done with their necessary signings in the off-season.

The Penguins were sure busy and it looks to be all for the sake of having some flexibility this season, putting together a sharp argument for a three-peat.  They have $2.5 million in unused space, a solid group up front, a good blueline and a number one goalie.  Argue away, boys!


A herniated disc in his neck was only the latest thing that kept Kris Letang from playing in the playoffs in the spring and that isn't even close to the worst thing that has happened to this guy... and many things have happened.  He does appear to be on track for camp and the start of the season, but take him knowing the risks.  Of the injuries through the playoffs, Letang's was the only one of real note.

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