|Christian Ehrhoff – D||James Neal – RW|
|Patric Hornqvist – RW||Matt Niskanen – D|
|Nick Spaling – C||Brooks Orpik – D|
|Thomas Greiss – G||Jussi Jokinen – LW|
|Steve Downie – RW||Lee Stempniak – RW|
|Blake Comeau – LW||Deryk Engelland – D|
|Tanner Glass – LW|
|Joe Vitale – C|
This upcoming season the Pittsburgh Penguins will look vastly different than they did when they extended their playoff streak to eight in 2013-14.
The Penguins head into 2014-15 with eight of their regulars from last season gone. They lost starting defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to the Capitals in free agency and traded top-6 forward James Neal to the Nashville Predators. In addition to Neal; Jussi Jokinen is now in Florida, meaning Evgeni Malkin will have two entirely different linemates this year.
Neal was dealt for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, who are both expected to play big roles this season. Hornqvist is an obvious candidate to fill-in for Neal on Malkin’s right side, which must feel like an early Christmas present for the 27-year-old Swede. Hornqvist has always been a solid scorer (20+ goals in the last four 82-game seasons) and should definitely score more goals in Pittsburgh. He is a lock for 20 with 30-goal upside—making him a great mid-round pick.
Can you believe I made it through 203 words without mentioning Sidney Crosby? After some injury plagued seasons, Crosby turned in a full-year in 2013-14. He led all players with 104 points (36G / 68A) in 80 games. He is the sure-fire number-1 pick in standard leagues, but in leagues where goals are worth extra, it is worth taking a look at Steven Stamkos. Chris Kunitz will be back on his wing, a year after setting a career-high with 35 goals at the age of 34. They will get Pascal Dupuis back on the right-side, after he missed 43 games with a torn ACL. At 35, it could be a tough injury to come back from, but even if he is not at 100 per cent, he has fantasy upside playing with Crosby and Kunitz.
Back to Malkin… He had a tough year, missing 22 games with a leg and foot injury. Despite missing time, the 28-year-old had 23 goals and 49 assists (72 points) in 60 games, which is a 98-point pace. If he stays healthy, he is a fantasy stud, but health has been an issue for Malkin over the last five seasons. Over that span he has missed 100 games (avg. 20 per season) which is a risky investment for a player who will go early in the first round. If healthy, there are not many better, but that is a big if right now.
Despite losing three regular D-men, the Penguins still look strong on the blueline. They brought Christian Ehrhoff over from Buffalo on a one-year deal and he will definitely contribute offensively. Ehrhoff put up solid numbers on an anemic Sabres’ offence, so the move to a powerhouse Penguins’ power-play could produce a career-year for the German. Kris Letang is back after suffering a stroke last season. He averaged over 24 minutes TOI in the playoffs, so he is showing no ill effects from the scary incident. Ehrhoff and Letang should battle for the team lead in points on the back-end; both have 50-point potential, but mid-40’s is more likely. Olli Maatta, 20, was great for the Pens in his rookie campaign. He had 29 points (9G / 20A) in 78 games and will build on that this season. He did not score that much in juniors, so do not expect a huge jump in production. He is rock-solid in his own end and another mid-20’s season is the most likely scenario. Paul Martin also missed significant time last season after breaking his hand in the Olympics. When he was in the lineup, he had 15 points in 32 games. He is not going to put up crazy numbers, but like Maatta, mid-20’s is just fine.
In goal the Penguins will also look a little different this season. Marc-Andre Fleury is still their starter, but he will have a new back-up with Thomas Greiss coming over from the Arizona Coyotes. Last year, Fleury was second in the NHL in wins (39) but was 16th in GAA (2.37) and 23rd in SV% (.915). He has been remarkably consistent over the last four years. 2.32, 2.36, 2.39 and 2.37 are the GAA’s he has posted while keeping his SV% between .913 and .918. Those numbers are not elite, but they are solid and you know you are going to get ton of wins. Fleury is a top-tier, stable goaltending option that likely won’t cost you a pick in the first three rounds. Greiss was great in his only year in Arizona. He had a 2.29 GAA and .920 SV% and the move to Pittsburgh will make him a top spot-start option in the NHL.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Penguins’ Fantasy Players)
- Sidney Crosby – C
- Evgeni Malkin – C
- Chris Kunitz – LW
- Marc-Andre Fleury – G
- Kris Letang – D
- Christian Ehrhoff – D
- Patric Hornqvist – RW
- Pascal Dupuis – RW
- Beau Bennett – RW
- Paul Martin – D
Click HERE for the Penguins’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: The Penguins will win the Metropolitan Division Title and contend for the President’s Trophy.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames,Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars,Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers