In the shortened 2013 season, the group of forwards and defense that finished the year in Penguins uniforms led the league in pool scoring, while in 2014, they finished 3rd, only behind Chicago and Boston. The 2015 season will showcase a different looking Penguins squad, mostly on the wings of their two top centres and a much different look on their blueline. All of this to aid their goaltender in picking up more wins through the regular season and into the playoffs.
The new look for the 2015 season was also facilitated by new management, as the whole landscape of the hockey operations changed after a collapse in the playoffs and that included a new bench boss as well, as Dan Bylsma got the boot and Mike Johnston was hired to take on the superstar class. Johnston has seen some successes in his coaching and management career, mostly in the junior ranks, so it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table for the pros in Pittsburgh.
|Forwards||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Defense||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit||Goaltenders||14/15 Proj||Cap Hit|
|Sidney Crosby||110||8.700||Kristopher Letang||65||7.250||Marc-Andre Fleury||90||5.000|
|Evgeni Malkin||95||9.500||Christian Ehrhoff||50||4.000||Thomas Greiss||10||1.000|
|Patric Hornqvist||70||4.250||Paul Martin||30||5.000|
|Chris Kunitz||70||3.850||Olli Maatta||25||0.894|
|Pascal Dupuis||55||3.750||Simon Despres||20||0.900|
|Nick Spaling||40||2.200||Robert Bortuzzo||15||0.600|
|Brandon Sutter||35||3.300||Rob Scuderi||10||3.375|
|BUYOUTS & OTHER||0.000|
|Jayson Megna||10||0.874||Derrick Pouliot||15||0.863||Jeff Zatkoff||10||0.600|
|Andrew Ebbett||5||0.550||Brian Dumoulin||10||0.832|
|Zach Sill||5||0.550||Taylor Chorney||5||0.550|
First Round Picks
There are no surprises here. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury remain as top possible picks in the opening round of the draft. All three even have their merits for 1st overall, but only one has the real likelihood of taking that and that would be Sid the Kid.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
With some of the changes that have been made to the Penguins depth chart in the off-season, there were a few candidates worth mentioning, but after a couple long years in Buffalo and a contract buyout in the Summer, Christian Ehrhoff becomes the most intriguing player on the depth chart, as he tries to return to a scoring level, which brought him that big long-term (eventually bought out) deal in Buffalo, while he was playing for the Canucks. I believe that Ehrhoff unseats Paul Martin as the number one guy, gets number two power play minutes and has a pretty good year in Pittsburgh. I don't think I would rush too quickly for Ehrhoff, but he will be a pretty good option in 2015.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Coming back in the deal that sent James Neal to Nashville came a couple of decent forwards that should be pool worthy (or more so), now that they have a chance of playing with some of the most premier centres in the league. Patric Hornqvist is probably my favourite out of the bunch, who could very well act as a good trigger man for either Crosby or Malkin. Chris Kunitz has become somewhat of mainstay now on the line with Crosby and that will be good for points, while Pascal Dupuis should continue to provide some decent veteran support.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Last season, Finnish rookie defenseman Olli Maatta was a Waiver Draft pick in the pool and this year he will be upgraded to being selected in the regular draft in September. Maatta had himself a bit of late start to the season, but a good showing in Pittsburgh and at the Olympics pushed him onto centre stage. His sophomore season may cost him some points, but he should still be worthy of a spot. Let's not forget about Kristopher Letang or Paul Martin either, because they will still be more than worthy for your pick.
The new management and coaching staff have given Marc-Andre Fleury a vote of confidence going into the 2015 season and only having career back-up types behind Fleury is a good indication of how this year is going to go for the Penguins netminder. Fleury is going to get the reps, likely win a bunch of games and will get rested every once and a while, giving the team's back-up an opportunity to play. The race for the back-up job is a good one, as Thomas Greiss and Jeff Zatkoff will have the edge, but it's tough to put much between them at the moment. I would avoid that situation, if I am in need of a goalie late.
Team To Pick From Late?
There is going to be some players that fly under the radar from Pittsburgh, especially when you are playing against those poolies looking through the books at the table. There are also some good gambles to improve on their projections, like a Marcel Goc or a Simon Despres, so if you're looking to Pittsburgh for some late magic, you'll probably find it.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Penguins are free and clear on the restricted free agent front, as they signed Brandon Sutter in August and he was the last to join the ranks. The projected roster today does have some spots open, two to be exact, and the team isn't running with much cap space left, only rocking about $931,000 on the books, which is only enough for one more player, by virtue of the league minimum. This is by no means a crisis, but there isn't much flexibility on the roster, so they likely won't be carrying a full compliment of healthy scratches to start the season.
There was some thought that veteran forward Pascal Dupuis may not be ready for the season, after undergoing surgery on his knee in February, but it looks like everything is on track for him to start in October, just fine. Olli Maatta and Beau Bennett may be a bit more questionable for their starts to the season, due to shoulder and wrist injuries, respectively. It will be good to keep an eye on these two at draft time.