The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the 2017-18 season as back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, looking to become the first team to win three in a row since the 1981-83 New York Islanders. Instead, they were bounced from the second round by their rivals and eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals.
Now they come into the 2019 season as the hunters and not the hunted, and bring back a large portion of their core group. The Penguins have qualified for the playoffs in 12-straight seasons and no team has won more games than them over that span (561).
➕ Jack Johnson (Free Agency)
➕ Matt Cullen (Free Agency)
➕ Derek Grant (Free Agency)
➕ Stefan Elliott (Free Agency)
➕ Jimmy Hayes (Free Agency)
Not unlike any other Penguin teams in the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era, the 2018-19 Penguins are loaded up front. Assuming their projected lines above, Pittsburgh has the second-best first line in the league and the number-one rated second line, according to Corsica. Crosby and Malkin are obviously the headliners of the Penguin attack, combining for an absurd 187 points last season. They are both legitimate threats to hit triple-digit points in 2018-19.
Phil Kessel is the third prong of the Penguins’ attack and is coming off a career season in which he posted personal bests in assists (58) and points (92). After spending much of last season anchoring the Penguins’ third line, it appears Kessel is set to start 2018-19 alongside Malkin and Carl Hagelin on line 2. Patric Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel each carry modest fantasy value as the complements to Crosby. Derrick Brassard‘s value takes a hit heading into the season with Kessel no longer on his wing.
With a career average of 52 points per 82 games, Kris Letang is by far the most productive player on the Penguins’ blueline. He has a career ATOI of 23:38 and averaged at least 25 minutes a game in each of the last four seasons. He is the quarterback of the Penguins’ top powerplay unit, one of the most valuable roles in fantasy hockey. The lone concern with Letang is always durability, but he did ease that concern by missing just three games in 2017-18. He is a fantasy stud when he’s healthy and is the sole reason why the Penguins’ top pair is rated number five in the league by Corsica.
Olli Maata and Justin Schultz were both fairly productive last year, registering 29 and 27 points respectively. The problem with both of them, from a fantasy perspective, is that they are competing with one another for time on the Penguins’ second powerplay unit. A limited role with the man advantage and playing away from Letang at 5v5 put a low ceiling on the production of the Penguins’ second pair.
Despite playing on the top pair with Letang, Brian Dumoulin holds little to no fantasy value. He is, at best, fourth in line for powerplay time on the Penguins’ blueline and picked up just 18 even strength points in 80 games last season.
After leading the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two seasons, Matt Murray struggled on a number of accounts last year. A slew of injuries caused him to miss 22 games and he finished the year with just a .907 SV%. While he might not match the .923 SV% he had in 2016-17, his pedigree suggests a bounce-back year is in order for the Pens’ netminder. Assuming he enjoys a healthier 2018-19, Murray should see upwards of 60 starts, giving him a serious shot at 40 wins.
|Sidney Crosby (36)||Sidney Crosby (61)||Sidney Crosby (97)||Evgeni Malkin (12)|
|Evgeni Malkin (35)||Evgeni Malkin (48)||Evgeni Malkin (83)||Sidney Crosby (11)|
|Phil Kessel (28)||Kris Letang (47)||Phil Kessel (74)||Patric Hornqvist (10)|
- 3. Sidney Crosby — #2 C
- 5. Evgeni Malkin — #3 C
- 22. Phil Kessel — #7 RW
- 52. Kris Letang — #9 D
- 66. Matt Murray — #10 G
- 134. Jake Guentzel — #25 LW
- 173. Patric Hornqvist — #35 RW
- 183. Justin Schultz — #48 D
- 196. Derick Brassard — #47 C
- 288. Olli Maatta — #76 D
Predicted Metropolitan Standings
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Spots 2-8 will be revealed upon the release of our previews for each respective team.
The top spot in the Metro division will be highly-coveted this season. In all likelihood, two of Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia will have to face each other in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite the Capitals’ cup run a year ago, Pittsburgh is the odds-on favourite to finish atop the division. Though they are a little thin on the blueline, Pittsburgh’s bevy of offensive options trumps that of the Capitals on paper. They should have no problem breaking 100 points for the fourth-straight season.