Pittsburgh Penguins Forwards Review: Pittsburgh is literally loaded at forward. They have two lines on their front 6 that flat out dominate. It's practically impossible to keep this front 6 from getting a point for 60 minutes unless you have a defense with a ton of depth and a top 5 goaltender.
Jake Guentzel had 16 goals, 17 assists, and 33 points in 40 regular season games. He had 13 goals, 8 assists, and 21 points in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Guentzel showed he's ready to play on Pittsburgh's top line if you combine his regular season and playoff totals. He can compliment line 1 center Sidney Crosby and line 1 right winger Phil Kessel.
The second line features Patric Hornqvist as the line 2 left winger. Evgeni Malkin anchors this second line as he is the NHL's best line 2 center and would be a top line player on any other NHL team. Many consider him a top 5 center in the NHL despite being Crosby's teammate. Conor Sheary is the line 2 right winger. This second line compliments Pittsburgh's first line to perfection.
Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust are great line 3 wingers. Hagelin is an effective line 3 left winger and the same could be said for Rust at right wing. The big question mark and potential liability on the third line is Greg McKegg being Pittsburgh's third line center. McKegg belongs on an AHL roster and the decision to put him behind Crosby and Malkin is beyond foolish.
Pittsburgh's fourth line only has one reliable asset. That is left winger Scott Wilson. Carter Rowney is just as ineffective as Greg McKegg. These centers behind Crosby and Malkin are scrubs compared to Bonino and Cullen.
Trading Pittsburgh's 2017 first round pick to the St. Louis Blues for Ryan Reeves was a foolish decision. Tom Kuhnhackl is a bigger asset than Reeves who provides an enforcer that gets into fights at best and a hasband at worst.
Klim Kostin was the top NHL Draft prospect from Russia and he fell to Pittsburgh's lap at 31. The Penguins could have kept Kunhackl on this line while they developed Kostin, but Jim Nill looks absolutely lost without Jason Botterill who is now on the Buffalo Sabres as their new GM after being Nill's assistant in Pittsburgh during Pittsburgh's back-to-back Stanley Cup teams. Boterill got Marco Scandella from the Minnesota Wild so you can tell that Nill is not the same GM without his assistant.
The Penguins ranked 1st in goals scored and 3rd on the power play. Those numbers will drop without Nick Bonino or Matt Cullen, but Pittsburgh could still be a top 5 team on the power play if everyone is healthy. Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, and defenseman Kris Letang are on all on this first line power play and that's a dangerous combo when Pittsburgh is completely healthy because they you only have 4 players on the ice against those four. That's what makes Pittsburgh's power play so deadly.
Pittsburgh Penguins Defensive Lines
Pittsburgh Penguins Defensemen Review Pittsburgh has Letang and Schultz on their first line. The second line features Brian Dumoulin their biggest defender and Olli Maata on the second line. All four of these defenders have experience on the top line. Schultz, Dumoulin, and Maata all had their moments on the top line when Kris Letang was injured during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pittsburgh's third line features Ian Cole and Matt Hunwick who was a veteran defender that provided a solid presence on a Toronto team that lacked defense outside of Morgan Reilly and Matt Hunwick. Pittsburgh lost Ron Hainsley and Trevor Daley, but they had so much depth on the blue line that Pittsburgh didn't break a sweat after those older defenders walked.
Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference when healthy. Kris Letang cannot suffer a season ending injury. Pittsburgh was really fortunate that they had Schultz, Dumoulin, Maata, Daley, Hainsley, and Cole for depth with Letang's departure. Pittsburgh has Derrick Pouliot for depth, but they will need Letang this year if they face a team like the Boston Bruins in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.
Pittsburgh was 17th in goals allowed and 20th in penalty killing in 2016-2017. This was mainly due to injuries with Letang and Maata out. I actually believe the Penguins' blue line on defense with their depth is stronger than their center outside of Crosby and Malkin now that Bonino and Cullen are gone. Pittsburgh will improve defensively in a big way this upcoming season.
Draft Utopia Between The Pipes Goalie Tracker
Goals Against Average
Goals Against Average
Pittsburgh Penguins Goaltender Review Matt Murray claimed the starting goalie job from Fleury and led the Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cups. Murray's new backup Antti Niemi is awful and if the Penguins lose Murray for any significant time then they are absolutely screwed. They do not have that two goalie situation they had last season which is one reason why they are in big trouble if Murray goes down.
Pittsburgh Penguins Prospect Pool: Pittsburgh got Daniel Sprong in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft at right wing before trading Kasperi Kapanen to get Phil Kessel. Sprong is now in the AHL and is a future asset on the Penguins.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2017-2018 Prediction
Pittsburgh has a Stanley Cup caliber team if everyone stays healthy. At the very worst this team will lose in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.
I believe Pittsburgh is the top team in the Metropolitan Division followed by Columbus and then Washington. After that we get Carolina as a wild card and Philadelphia as the other wild card. The other New York teams Rangers and Islanders finish 6th and 7th with the New Jersey Devils in last place in an extremely competitive Metropolitan Division.
I've pinpointed the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins as the top two teams in the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions. Boston had the #1 penalty killing unit last year. Boston has more depth at center this year, but Pittsburgh has more consistency on their top 6 with their first two lines. Both the Bruins and the Penguins can play well enough defensively to get to the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals.
Whoever ended up getting home ice would win the Eastern Conference. I'll pick Boston in 7 games since I have more faith in Anton Khudobin then I have in Antti Niemi even though this Eastern Conference Finals will be very intense. If Pittsburgh avoids the Bruins in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs they have an excellent chance to return to the Stanley Cup as long as their stars stay healthy since Mike Sullivan knows how to keep this team disciplined.
I'll go with Edmonton over Boston to win the 2018 Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh and Nashville could both easily return to the Stanley Cup so keep an eye on who is healthy and take my previews with grain of salt. Thank you so much for reading my NHL Previews and enjoy the 2017-2018 NHL Season.
Click the link below to get information on Pittsburgh's AHL partner, the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins.