Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 Training Camp

It is that time of year again, the kids have finished up the annual rookie tournament (see the recap of the 2019 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo) and the players are gearing up for the main NHL training camp activities. Barring any last minute additions of invites who impressed during the rookie tournament the Pittsburgh Penguins have invited 54 players: 6 goaltenders, 17 defensemen, and 31 forwards. They will need to be down to 23 players (and cap compliant) before the start of the 2019-20 NHL season on October 2.

Like usual we are going to take a look at the schedule, seeing where one can reasonably expect cuts to occur, and look at who all is attending camp, what their chances of making the lineup are, and what the roster could look like going into the season.

 

Schedule

The open camp on Friday September 13 split into 3 groups, Teams 1 and 2 each have a morning practice and then a scrimmage while Team 3 has two afternoon practice sessions. On Saturday September 14 it is Teams 2 and 3 with the morning practice and scrimmage while Team 1 hits the ice for the afternoon sessions. Then Sunday September 15 Teams 1 and 3 scrimmage while Team 2 gets the late practice.

On Monday September 16 they split into a game group and a non-game group, with a non-game practice for the larger group and a morning skate for those who will be playing an away game against the Buffalo Sabres at 7:00pm in Penn State. There is a scheduled day off on Tuesday, so this may be the ideal place to see the first round of cuts taking place as when the teams return on Wednesday September 18 they will be split into two practice groups. The first cuts will likely be those players who are heading back to juniors or invites on AHL deals who were up just to get experience with the big club.

On Thursday September 19 they have a game day skate and a separate non-game practice for those not playing and then their first home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00pm. They have split practice on Friday September 20 with Team 1 in the morning and Team 2 in the afternoon. After that they head on the road, the players that remain behind have a morning practice session each day while those who travel play Columbus at 2:00pm on Saturday September 21 and the Detroit Red Wings at 5:00pm on Sunday September 22.

This is another ideal place for them to make roster cuts. There is a scheduled day off on Monday September 23 and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins should be starting their AHL training camp around this time as they play their first preseason game on the 25th. Additionally when the players return to the ice on Tuesday September 24 they are slated to be down to a single practice group. At this point the roster should be close to what one would expect from an opening night lineup, although there may still be a few extra fighting over the final roster spots. The guys getting cut here are those slated for the AHL, although it is possible some could be used as mid-season call-ups.

On Wednesday September 25 they have a morning skate and then a home game against Detroit at 7:00pm. They have afternoon practices again on Thursday September 26 and Friday September 27. The final game is against Buffalo at 4:00pm on Saturday September 28, this is presumably the annual Free Game for Kids as they always schedule that as a Saturday afternoon home game. The final practice is scheduled for Sunday September 29, after which they may plan their usual team building trip before the regular season officially begins. Any final cuts will be made right before the deadline as they drop down to a 23-man opening night lineup and get under the salary cap.

 

Goaltenders

1 Casey DeSmith – 2017 free agent signing

30 Matt Murray – 2012 3rd round pick

33 Alex D’Orio – 2017 free agent signing

35 Tristan Jarry – 2013 2nd round pick

60 Emil Larmi – 2019 free agent signing

65 Dustin Tokarski – AHL contract

 

Barring any unforeseen injuries we can assume that Murray will be the starter and DeSmith the backup once again. Jarry is in an unfortunate situation where he is NHL ready but stuck behind two other young netminders. He has also played long enough that he will need to be placed on waivers in order to be sent back to the AHL. I am somewhat surprised that he is still here, but the rumours are suggesting the team tried trading him over the summer but couldn’t find any interest. That does mean that it may be easier for him to clear waivers, although it could just be that teams didn’t want to trade for him when they could just snag him up for free anyway. Either way I don’t really see a future for him with the Pens because of the other moves they made this summer.

The assumption was that they brought in Larmi to be the AHL starter, he is coming off a solid Euro career where he led his team to a Liiga championship. Tokarski was brought in as a veteran backup to help the young kids, a role he played last year under new WBS HC Mike Vellucci during the Charlotte Checkers Calder Cup victory. It may take Larmi a little time to adjust to the smaller ice and speed of the game in North American, but I expect him to be the starter by the end of the year. This all of course means that D’Orio should be starting his pro career down in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers.

The Jarry situation complicates things. They could trade another goalie to keep him up, but I think DeSmith is a better option and I just don’t see them being willing to part with Murray. They could find a last minute trade partner or lose Jarry trying to waive him down. But if Jarry clears then everything gets muddled. Since Larmi may need time to adjust it wouldn’t be terrible to let him start in Wheeling (or as a backup), but eventually they would want Larmi taking over as #1 in the AHL. They could loan Jarry to another team and still try to trade him, or they could loan out Tokarski or even send him to the ECHL, although I don’t see that one happening as Vellucci is already familiar with him. That will be one of the more interesting questions during camp, what happens to Jarry this year and who will the AHL goalies be?

 

NHL (2) – Murray/DeSmith $5.000M

Minors (5) – Jarry, Larmi, Tokarski, D’Orio, Ruby

 

Defensemen

2 Chad Ruhwedel – 2016 free agent signing

3 Jack Johnson – 2018 free agent signing

4 Justin Schultz – Acquired from Edmonton in 2016

5 Zach Trotman – 2017 free agent signing

6 John Marino – Acquired from Edmonton in 2019

7 Kevin Czuczman – 2017 free agent signing

8 Brian Dumoulin – Acquired from Carolina in 2012

25 Matt Abt – AHL contract

28 Marcus Pettersson – Acquired from Anaheim in 2018

44 Erik Gudbranson – Acquired from Vancouver in 2019

50 Juuso Riikola – 2018 free agent signing

55 David Warsofsky – 2019 free agent signing

58 Kris Letang – 2005 3rd round pick

67 Michael Kim – AHL contract

73 Pierre-Olivier Joseph – Acquired from Arizona in 2019

76 Calen Addison – 2018 2nd round pick

79 Niclas Almari – 2016 5th round pick

 

There are seven D on one-way NHL contracts, an RFA that they still hope to re-sign before the season begins, and two other D who spent part of last season up in Pittsburgh, not to mention a newly returning AHL veteran who was a favourite of HC Mike Sullivan the last time he played with the Pens.

It seems like it should be fairly straightforward. Letang Schultz, and Gudbranson anchor the 3 D pairings on the right side while Dumoulin and Johnson join them on the left. What complicates matters is that Pettersson remains unsigned as an RFA and they can’t really fit him under the cap without making a trade (although if they go with a 22-man roster and he signs at his QO or less they can just make it). Ideally he would be on the 2nd pairing while Johnson sits as the #7 D, but as of now that is not looking likely to happen.

The Pens normally like to carry 8 D because it makes practice easier to not have to split up the pairings, but as it stands now with their cap issues they may have to go with just 7D, and as of now we are counting Pettersson as one of those 7 even though he remains unsigned. That basically leaves Riikola, Ruhwedel, Trotman, Czuczman, and Warsofsky battling over the final roster spot. All of them need to clear waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL, but I don’t anticipate any issues with them making it through. Riikola is at a disadvantage because he makes more than the rest and he got sent down late last season, whereas Ruhwedel has been mostly in the NHL since joining the Pens and Trotman was called up late last year and remained through the playoff run. And while Warsofsky was a full-time AHL guy last year, he saw time in Pittsburgh back in 2015-17 and Sullivan liked to use him.

Of course in a perfect world where they kept 8 D they would probably have a left-handed and a right-handed guy, but if they only go with 7 then a lefty (Riikola/Warsofsky/Czuczman) may have an edge because they are pretty set along the right side. However they really like Ruhwedel so we may be better off penciling him in as the #7 D. This unfortunately means Johnson is in on the 3rd pairing, and relies on the assumption that a deal can be reached with Pettersson.

Addison should be back in the juniors, he is only 19 and this will allow his contract to slide. Marino and Joseph are rookies that are waiver exempt, so one can reasonably assume they will be playing in WBS. If they had the cap space I wouldn’t mind giving Joseph a shot in the NHL (and if Pettersson remains unsigned they could end up doing so), but based on what I saw i the rookie tournament I don’t think Marino is anywhere near NHL ready. Almari is waiver exempt but due to his experience in Finland he isn’t really a rookie. Abt spent all of last year in WBS and Kim is an undrafted free agent who looked decent enough in the rookie tournament. There will be some trickle down to Wheeling, however it will depend on how many they plan to keep up, who clears waivers, etc…

 

NHL (7) – Dumoulin-Letang/Pettersson-Schultz/Johnson-Gudbranson/Ruhwedel $24.800 + RFA

Minors (15) – Trotman, Czuczman, Warsofsky, Riikola, Joseph, Marino, Almari, Abt, Kim, Erkamps, Siebenaler, Lizotte, Titcomb, Skudalski, Kohls

 

Forwards

11 Oula Palve – 2019 free agent signing

12 Dominik Simon – 2015 5th round pick

13 Brandon Tanev – 2019 free agent signing

17 Bryan Rust – 2010 3rd round pick

18 Alex Galchenyuk – Acquired from Arizona in 2019

19 Jared McCann – Acquired from Florida in 2019

20 Kasper Bjorkqvist – 2016 2nd round pick

22 Samuel Poulin – 2019 1st round pick

24 Dominik Kahun – Acquired from Chicago in 2019

26 Andrew Agozzino – 2019 free agent signing

27 Nick Bjugstad – Acquired from Florida in 2019

34 Nathan Legare – 2019 3rd round pick

36 Joseph Blandisi – Acquired from Anaheim in 2019

37 Sam Lafferty – 2014 4th round pick

45 Jake Lucchini – 2019 free agent signing

46 Zach Aston-Reese – 2017 free agent signing

47 Adam Johnson – 2017 free agent signing

51 Joseph Cramarossa – 2019 free agent signing

53 Teddy Blueger – 2012 2nd round pick

54 Thomas Di Pauli – 2016 free agent signing

56 Ryan Haggerty – 2018 free agent signing

57 Anthony Angello – 2014 5th round pick

59 Jake Guentzel – 2013 3rd round pick

61 Justin Almeida – 2018 5th round pick

64 Jordy Bellerive – 2017 free agent signing

71 Evgeni Malkin – 2004 1st round pick

72 Patric Hornqvist – Acquired from Nashville in 2014

75 Ben Sexton – AHL contract

80 Sam Miletic – 2017 free agent signing

82 Jan Drozg – 2017 5th round pick

87 Sidney Crosby – 2005 1st round pick

 

There may not be many surprises up front as the Pens have 12 guys on 1-way NHL deals plus another still on an ELC that spent all of last season up in the NHL. The camp battles will likely be trying to figure out who fits where in the lineup, since there are a number of new faces, and what the pecking order will be for mid-season call-ups. There are a couple guys who look like they could be right on the verge of breaking into the NHL, but their waiver exempt status probably means they will at least start the season down in WBS.

Up front we can assume that Crosby will still be the #1 C with Guentzel on his LW, and Malkin is the #2 C likely skating with the newly acquired Galchenyuk on his RW. The question will be which guys will move up to join them. I like to assume that Kahun will be up there, he is listed as LW so he could slot in with Malkin. Hornqvist has had success playing on Crosby’s RW, so there is familiarity there, but last year he spent a lot of time on the 3rd line so it is possible that Rust will get bumped up. And those aren’t even the only options, they had given Simon a shot (he is listed at RW) and ZAR got some work in the Top 6 (they have him as LW), and they even has McCann up with Malkin last year (he is listed at LW although I prefer him as a C).

One can imagine that Bjugstad will slot in at 3 C since that is what they wanted him for when they made the trade, and based on how much they talked him up I’d expect Tanev to join him as 3 LW. They will probably be joined by whichever of Rust/Hornqvist don’t play with Crosby. That leaves them with ZAR, McCann, Simon, and Blueger for the 4th line. Of those unfortunately Blueger is probably the odd man out who will be scratched more often than not, but I like what he brings as a defensively responsible PK guy.

Agozzino and Blandisi both saw some time in the NHL last year with their former clubs, and both need to clear waivers before joining the AHL. Cramarossa, Di Pauli, and Haggerty will also all need to be waived, although I don’t really anticipate any problems with them. Johnson spent a couple weeks in Pittsburgh last year, but he is still waiver exempt so I can’t imagine he won’t be back in WBS. Angello, Lafferty, and Miletic could all make a push for NHL minutes this year, but their still being waiver exempt means they should start the year down in the minors and be options for mid-season call-ups. Palve is not a rookie since he spent years playing in Finland, but he is waiver exempt this year so it would make sense for him to begin his North American career down in WBS too. Lastly Drozg, Almeida, Lucchini, Bjorkqvist, and Bellerive are waiver exempt rookies who could even wind up spending time in Wheeling depending on how packed the roster is.

Poulin and Legare are only 18 and still unsigned so they will be returning to the juniors.

 

NHL (13) – Guentzel-Crosby-Hornqvist/Kahun-Malkin-Galchenyuk/Tanev-Bjugstad-Rust/Aston-Reese-McCann-Simon/Blueger $50.175M plus $2.850M bonus

Minors (27) – Agozzino, Cramarossa, Haggerty, Sexton, Di Pauli, Johnson, Blandisi, Palve, Angello, Lafferty, Miletic, Bellerive, Bjorkqvist, Drozg, Almeida, Lucchini, Devane, Scarfo, Hirano, Krastenbergs, Berger, Hawkins, Powell, Brown, Drobot, Saracino, Butcher

 

Projected Roster and Cap Hit

Based on the 22-man roster (2 G, 7 D, 13 F) listed in the sections above the Pens would be at $82.958M, although if we ignore the bonus cushion we are looking at $80.108M. That gives them $1.393M to work with in order to get Pettersson signed, but even if they can convince him to sign for league minimum (doubtful) that wouldn’t leave them with enough wiggle room should they need injury call-ups. Rutherford has said he isn’t anticipating any more trades right now, but one would think that something has to give at some point during the season because of their cap situation and the less than ideal D corps.

A Jarry trade would make sense, but it is looking less likely, although perhaps they will find more interested parties if he clears waivers. Personally I would be more comfortable with a DeSmith-Jarry combo in net, but they are not going to trade Murray so we’ll just have to hope he can figure out his game this year. And if he can translate his success to North America is may not be long before Larmi is making a push to move up as well.

On D they have serious cap issues because Johnson and Gudbranson are both overpaid but shouldn’t really be more than 3rd pairing guys (and Johnson I’m not even sure about that). Ideally one of them would be traded, preferably Johnson, but unfortunately the team really likes him and I don’t think they will have luck finding any takers on the trade market. Gudbranson might be easier to trade but even him I think will be difficult because of how much he makes. Of course even if they could be traded it doesn’t help much because the D in the pipeline behind them aren’t really any better. Ruhwedel, Trotman, Riikola, Czuczman, Warsofsky… none of them are really ideal 3rd pairing D either, although at least the cap is much better. As mentioned maybe Joseph, and if he plays better than he did in the rookie tournament then maybe Marino could eventually make a push, but I am guessing we will be pretty much stuck with the D we have for the time being. Which is unfortunate because there are a few guys who will be FA next summer that would be so much easier to bring back if we could clear out some cap space first.

Up front they are pretty set, there are enough guys who could be playing Top 6 minutes to field a deep lineup and even the 13th F is a guy I wouldn’t mind having dressed every night. However, if a trade is going to be made then it will be easiest to move a good forward rather than a bad D, and thankfully also easier to replace. Hornqvist would be best as he is an older guy who may not even be in the Top 6 (although I have penciled him in to it), but he also happens to have an NTC which limits the Pens options in trying to shop him. Tanev is the main issue as they vastly overpaid for him and signed him long term, but they sut added him so they aren’t getting rid of him even if they could find somebody stupid enough to take on that contract. Unfortunately it may be Rust who has to go, as he is the next highest cap hit and should actually have decent trade value on the market.

The added benefit of trading forwards of course is that it opens up spots for the youngsters to move up. Angello, Lafferty, and Miletic all have a year left so would need new contracts in the summer, and all of them could be making a push to move up to the NHL next season, but they can only do so if there are roster spots to be had. I imagine Palve would like to get that opportunity as well, he didn’t come over from Finland just to play in the AHL, and I’m sure Bjorkqvist didn’t leave school early in the hopes of having a long minor league career. Not to mention the new additions Poulin and Legare who hope to make it up in the big league some day.

Being right up against the cap is an issue for the future because there are soome big money guys who will be looking for more next summer. Murray and Schultz could come with hefty price tags, as could newly acquired Galchenyuk and Kahun, and even McCann may want to see a boost if he plans to stay. I expect there will be a lot of turnover again this year, especially if the team struggles again, we may find players who want to get an opportunity on a team where they will have more ice time rather than being small fish on a stacked Pens lineup.

Author: TKNoodle

I write about hockey, mostly focused on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights. NHL, AHL (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Chicago Wolves), ECHL (Wheeling Nailers), and various prospects from my teams playing in Europe (SHL, Liiga, KHL, etc...), the Canadian Major Juniors (OHL, QMJHL, and WHL), and in the NCAA (and some in lower tier juniors prior to joining the NCAA).

14 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 Training Camp”

  1. Team 3

    McCann-Bjugstad-Hornqvist
    Simon-Agozzino-Legare
    Di Pauli-Palve-Bjorkqvist
    Lucchini-Berger-Sexton
    Almeida (red no-contact jersey)

    Pettersson-Schultz
    Riikola-Trotman
    Kim-Almari

    Jarry
    Tokarski

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  2. Day 1
    Team 2 wins over Team 1 by a score of 3-1.
    Team 1 goal scored by Guentzel
    Team 2 goals were Malkin, Blueger (penalty shot), and Tanev (empty net)

    Day 2
    Team 2 wins over Team 3 by a score of 2-1
    Team 2 goals were scored by Lizotte and Lucchini
    Team 3 goal scored by Simon

    Day 3
    Team 3 wins over Team 1 by a score of 4-1
    Team 1 goal scored by Angello
    Team 3 goals scored by Palve, Simon, and Hornqvist x2 (one was an empty net)

    Since Team 1/Team 2 had a scrimmage on Day 1, Team 3 got the extra skaters (Berger, Sexton, and Lucchini).
    On Day 2 Berger and Sexton moved to Team 1 (who wasn’t playing) while Lucchini joined Team 2.
    For Day 3 the non-playing group was Team 2 got the extras. Berger remained with Team 1 while Bellerive and Drozg moved to Team 2 and Sexton returned to Team 3.

    If the past couple years are any indication, the lines/pairs used in the scrimmages are more indicative of what to expect from the projected depth chart than the lineup we will see Monday against the Sabres. The early preseason games are more about getting the young guys a taste of NHL experience paired with veteran mentors, so the lines and pairs they use over the next few games won’t mean much. But in practices they like to start working on line chemistry and let the different options get a shot at where they may slot into the lineup (e.g. we know Crosby/Guentzel will be together, so they are letting Kahun audition with them and trying to build chemistry in practice). Basically the top forward line of each scrimmage group represents the Penguins NHL Top 9 while the anticipated 4th liners (who could still get a shot at Top 9 minutes) are split up helping out the AHL level guys on the 2nd lines. These 2nd line also include quality prospects (Poulin/Legare) that will be heading back to juniors, but the AHL guys with them could be amongst the first options should they need a mid-season call-up.

    There are exception of course. We certainly aren’t expecting Dumoulin to play with Addison, but Addison is an undersized offensive D (think Derrick Pouliot 2.0) so Dumoulin can play the same way he will play during the season when paired with Letang and it lets a high profile prospect get heavier minutes and learn from one of the established D. So the top D pairing one each group gives us the anticipated Top 4 D (plus a prospect going to the juniors and a guy who may be at the top of the AHL call-up list) while the 2nd pairings have guys vying for the final 3 or 4 D spots on the roster.

    This certainly isn’t final, but it is a good indicator of what we could expect going into the regular season. Those guys at the bottom of the NHL lineup will of course still be battling for positioning (and some may get a chance to audition for a Top 9 role) and the 3rd pairing D (plus the #7/8 spots) still remains to be fleshed out. But look at it this way, the lines/pairs used in practice are more about establishing chemistry between players who could be together during the regular season while the preseason games are more about getting young guys some playing time and letting players audition for spots on the depth chart.

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  3. Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – Buffalo Sabres 5 (OT)

    Aston-Reese-Simon-Rust
    AJohnson-Blueger-Lafferty
    Poulin-Agozzino-Legare
    Miletic-Palve-Haggerty

    JJohnson-Ruhwedel
    Riikola-Marino
    Czuczman-Addison

    DeSmith
    Jarry

    The Pens were outshot 18-47 and went 0/4 on the PP and 3/4 on the PK.

    Goals were Agozzino (Legare), Lafferty (Marino), AJohnson (Unassisted), and Haggerty (JJohnson).

    DeSmith played the first half stopping 23/25 for a 92.0 Sv%
    Jarry finished the game stopping 19/22 for an 86.4 Sv%

    The game was played at Penn State, so as we always see when these games take place at non-NHL arenas they do not have the usual assortment of scoresheets available for the game, we don’t know things like TOI or additional items like shot attempts. The only thing we have to work with are points and plus/minus. And this was certainly a game in which the stat sheet doesn’t tell us the story of what played out, Buffalo dominated the first 2 periods of play and then the Pens made a 3rd period comeback to tie the game, although Buffalo was back in charge during the OT.

    Despite his poor Sv%, Jarry actually had a strong game. He didn’t give up easy goals, the one was a PP goal after he made the first 2 or 3 saves and his defenders were unable to clear the traffic in front and Buffalo eventually got one through, and the OT game winner was a stretch pass to Eichel who scored on the breakaway. He came up big on a number of key saves while the Pens were making their comeback, and held on to keep things tied as the momentum shifted late in the 3rd. DeSmith obviously did well, he is good enough that he could probably be the Pens starter if they weren’t so invested in Murray.

    Marino led the D with 1A and a +2 while Johnson had 1A and a +1, which ironically they were two of the players I thought looked out of place most of the game. Not that I thought any of the D looked great, Riikola and Czuczman were an even 0 while Addison and Ruhwedel were a -1. However, whenever I noticed a D making mistakes; sloppy plays, bad turnovers, and lapsed coverage; it was often a #3 I saw on the ice, and nearly as often a #6. Johnson is no surprise, we saw what he was capable of last year, but with how much people keep talking up Marino I just don’t see what they find impressive. He was tossed around most of the game, getting muscled off pucks and getting lost as players sped past him and he was caught trailing them down the ice, and just like during the rookie tournament I can’t help but think he is nowhere near NHL ready. Still, there are a few weeks left, and a long season ahead should he understandably be sent to WBS, so he can learn and improve. Addison likewise needs to develop further, he reminds me a lot of Derrick Pouliot, so he could grow into my favourite player, but we will have to see how he performs back in the WHL this year. I still expect Riikola to get sent down to WBS, but he is trying to make his case as the #7 D, however while Ruhwedel didn’t play well enough to convince me he should be an every day player he at least didn’t play poorly enough to lose his spot on the depth chart. Lastly Czuczman, a solid veteran, you get what you expect from him, and what we expect from him is an AHL D who could be called up during the season if they find they need him.

    The top line of ZAR, Simon, and Rust went scoreless and a -2, but they had a number of solid chances, in particular Rust was constantly zooming around and outpaced most of the other guys on the ice. Simon seems to have done a decent job at C, which may indeed be his role this year if they intend to use McCann as the 3rd line LW. Oddly enough this could be the Pens 4th line this year, with Blueger getting into the mix as well, and all of them could see significant usage on the PK. They will of course benefit greatly from the easier competition the 4th line faces rather than the top lines they faced this game, but on the PK they will still be defending against top players. The 2nd line did rather well, probably the most effective forwards on the ice, Johnson with 1G and a +2, Lafferty 1G and a +1, and Blueger scoreless at a +2. Johnson and Lafferty will most likely be in WBS, while Blueger is currently expected to be the 13th F, but they are all amongst the top of the list of call-ups this year and if fr some reason Blueger gets waived down they could form a remarkable top line in WBS. The 3rd line also played well, especially considering it was two junior prospects, Agozzino had 1G, Legare 1A, and both of them and Poulin finished at a +1. Agozzino should be waived to WBS where he will be a vet helping the younger players develop while Poulin and Legare are slated to be back in the juniors. The 4th line Haggerty had 1G and a +1, Miletic scoreless and an even 0, while Palve was a -1. They didn’t do bad overall, but they are all bound to play in WBS this year and should improve as the year goes on.

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  4. Day 6

    Despite the schedule listing the Pens as two separate practice groups after their off day yesterday they haven’t actually made any cuts yet and were still split into 3 groups. However, the groups were split in such a way that it gives us an idea of what we should expect going forward.

    Team 1

    Guentzel-Crosby-Kahun
    Galchenyuk-Malkin-Tanev
    McCann-Bjugstad-Hornqvist
    Aston-Reese-Blueger-Rust
    Simon

    Dumoulin-Letang
    Pettersson-Schultz
    Johnson-Gudbranson
    Riikola-Ruhwedel

    Murray
    DeSmith
    Jarry

    This group is obviously the anticipated NHL lineup. It of course isn’t finalized, one of the goalies (Jarry being the likely one) will have to go, and because of their cap situation they will need to drop to 7 D (or be left with just 12 F) unless they can still figure out a cap trade before the season begins (probably Riikola, they like Ruhwedel too much). We already had an inkling of this watching the practice groups over the first three days of scrimmages, and as I pointed out then the team seems to like practicing with familiarity in mind while they are more open to exposure and experience during the preseason games so those lines are more mixed.

    Team 2

    Bjorkqvist-Agozzino-Lafferty
    Di Pauli-Blandisi-Angello
    Miletic-Palve-Haggerty
    Cramarossa-Bellerive-Sexton
    Johnson

    Czuczman-Almari
    Joseph-Trotman
    Warsofsky-Marino

    Larmi
    Tokarski

    The second group then looks like it could be the WBS lineup for the season. There are still a few guys on AHL deals who weren’t invited to the NHL training camp, so these wouldn’t be the exact lines, and Johnson was on the roster sheet but not listed in the line rushes and I can’t imagine he would be a scratch. But it is a decent example of what we could see in the AHL to start the season. D’Orio was listed as being with Team 3, but he also joined Team 2 for their larger practice session.

    Team 3

    Poulin, Legare, Berger, Lucchini, Almeida, Drozg
    Abt, Lizotte, Kim, Addison
    D’Orio

    The other group are mostly players who I was expecting to be amongst the first round of cuts. Some of them are on NHL deals (Lucchini, Almeida, Drozg, Addison, and D’Orio), some were invites on AHL deals (Berger, Abt, Lizotte, and Kim), and still a couple unsigned draft picks (Poulin and Legare). Poulin, Legare, and Addison obviously will be back in the juniors. The rest of the guys should be in the minors (Almeida is still injured and skating in a red no-contact jersey). The fact that they are in group 3 rather than with the other nominal AHL guys suggests that these guys may be bound for the ECHL to play for the Wheeling Nailers. It isn’t necessarily how it will shake out, we will have to wait and see how the AHL training camp in WBS plays out next week, but between NHL and AHL contracts the team should have quite a few guys that get sent down to play bigger minutes in the ECHL rather than fighting to get into a crowded WBS lineup.

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  5. Falling behind again, we were at the game on Thursday and I didn’t do a write up after we got back, so here we go…

    Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – Columbus Blue Jackets 1

    Galchenyuk – Malkin – Tanev
    Guentzel – Simon – Kahun
    Poulin – Bjugstad – Hornqvist
    Bjorkqvist – Lafferty – Legare

    Warsofky – Schultz
    Joseph – Gudbranson
    Pettersson – Marino

    Murray

    The Pens led Shots 35-28 (32-20 ES) and shot attempts 51-48. They went 1/2 on the PP and 5/5 on the PK.
    Pens led Faceoffs 25-21 and Giveaways 10-8 while Takeaways were tied at 5. They trailed Hits 31-41 and Blocked Shots 9-11.

    Goals were PP Galchenyuk (Guentzel/Schultz), Guentzel (Malkin/Schultz), Legare (Lafferty/Bjorkqvist), and Legare (Bjorkqvist).

    Murray played the full 60:00 stopping 27/28 for a 1.00 GAA and 96.4 Sv%.

    Murray had a solid game, he had a couple of shaky situations (somebody behind us yelled “Get back in the net!” as Murray was flubbing a pass from the trapezoid) but he finished strong. He is an NHL starter playing a preseason game against a bunch of young players (on a team whose lineup was severely depleted this summer), so we didn’t expect anything less. You know it is a preseason game when they have Scott Harrington quarterbacking the PP, although to be fair he had some of Columbus’ best chances of the game.

    On D Schultz led the way with 2A and a -1 (his partner Warsofsky scoreless at -1) while the Marino-Pettersson combo was a +3. Joseph and Gudbranson put up goose eggs.

    Warsofsky had a rough night, I imagine his chances of breaking back into the NHL are rather limited, not that he had a very good chance to begin with. Schultz is primarily an offensive D, and he was paired with another guy who is mostly an offensive D, so I’m not too shocked to see him at a -1. However, he wasn’t actually all that bad defending, and he could have been even but they made a partial line change on the second goal he got an assist from the bench. Pettersson continues to be impressive, and Marino didn’t look nearly as bad as he did every other time I saw him play (through the rookie tournament and other preseason game). I think the Pettersson-Schultz pairing could be quite successful and give the Pens a rather solid Top 4 to work with this year. I’m still not expecting Marino to be NHL ready this year, we’ll see how he looks this time next season. I do like Joseph though, he isn’t there yet, but depending on how he develops throughout the year he could make a push for a mid-season call-up. Gudbanson hasn’t been as bad as many feared he would be, although he still makes far too much money for a 3rd pairing defensive D (and unfortunately will be handcuffed by a subpar D partner).

    Up front it was the 4th line who won the day: Legare 2G, Bjorkqvist 2A, and Lafferty 1A while all were at +2. However, Lafferty only won 3/8 for a 37.5 FO%. The top line of course saw Galchenyuk 1G and Malkin 1A while they both had a +1, although their linemate Tanev was less effective and was held off the scoreboard. Malkin had an impressive 9/12 at a 75.0 FO%. Guentzel also had an impressive 1G/1A and +1, but his points came while skating with the Russians rather than his slated linemates Simon and Kahun who were held off the board. Simon only won 1/6 for a 16.7 FO%. The 3rd line of Poulin, Bjugstad, and Hornqvist put up goose eggs but Bjugstad had an impressive 9/16 for a 56.3 FO%.

    Legare played well enough to earn himself a contract, although he should be heading back down to juniors at some point. Bjorkqvist and Lafferty will be two guys to watch in WBS this year, and could be looking for some NHL exposure later in the year depending on what kind of injuries we see. Malkin and Galchenyuk had instant chemistry, so it is looking like they will have a nice Top 6 and definitely a solid PP unit this year. Tanev was less effective with them this time, and Kahun didn’t look as effective with a less talented center. Speaking of which, I’m still not sold on the idea of Simon as the 4th line center, although with McCann playing LW and Blueger probably going to be a healthy scratch I guess they don’t have many options. The checking line anchored by Bjugstad and Hornvist looked like it should be an effective shutdown unit, although I won’t be surprised if fans complain all year because their stats (especially puck possession) probably won’t look so great, but this line should allow the Top 6 to get a little bit easier starts rather than relying on Crosby to be the shutdown guy. Poulin wasn’t all that great, but he’s an 18 year old kid that will be heading back to develop in the juniors for another year at least.

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  6. Day 8 (June 20)

    Again, I missed this one as I didn’t get on to write anything yesterday. It was a eventful day though as the Pens made their first roster cuts and did drop down to the scheduled 2 practice groups we were waiting for on Wednesday.

    Team 1

    Guentzel-Crosby-Tanev
    Galchenyuk-Malkin-Rust
    McCann-Bjugstad-Hornqvist
    Aston-Reese-Blueger-Kahun
    Simon

    Dumoulin-Letang
    Pettersson-Schultz
    Johnson-Gudbranson
    Riikola-Ruhwedel

    Murray
    DeSmith
    Jarry

    We again see them split into what looks like it could be almost the opening night NHL lineup on Team 1. There will still be moves made, they have too many players and are over the cap, but it doesn’t look like there was much uestion about the lineup going into camp, just shaking out who plays with whom. For this practice they kept the core groups together and swapped around RW options: Tanev moving up with Crosby, Rust bumping up with Malkin, and Kahun all the way down to the 4th line. The D remains as it has been, and goalies are obvious.

    Team 2

    Nobody seems to have posted their lines and pairs, they were all in watching the NHL practice group, but since it is basically the same group of guys we can expect they used similar lines to what we saw last time.

    G
    Larmi and D’Orio

    D
    Marino, Czuczman, Warsofsky, Joseph, and Almari (Trotman missing)

    F
    Palve, Bjorkqvist, Poulin, Agozzino, Legare, Blandisi, Lafferty, Miletic, Lucchini, Cramarossa, Di Pauli, Haggerty, Angello, and Sexton (Johnson missing, Almeida still skating on his own)

    They also made their first round of roster cuts later in the day. D Addison was returned to the WHL while G D’Orio and F Bellerive/Drozg were sent to WBS. They also released AHL contracted players on PTOs: G Tokarski, D Abt/Kim/Lizotte, and F Berger/Sexton. WBS starts their training camp next week.

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  7. Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins 1 – Columbus Blue Jackets 3

    McCann – Bjugstad – Kahun
    Bjorkqvist- Blueger – Aston-Reese
    Di Pauli – Agozzino – Lafferty
    Lucchini – Blandisi – Angello

    Warsofsky – Gudbranson
    Czuczman – Ruhwedel
    Riikola – Marino

    DeSmith

    Pens led shots 25-22 (21-19 ES) and shot attempts 49-47. They went 0/2 on the PP and 2/3 on the PK.
    Pens led faceoffs 37-25 and takeaways 5-0 but trailed hits 7-20, giveaways 1-5, and blocked shots 12-16.

    Goal was Riikola (Agozzino/Marino).

    DeSmith played 58:16 stopping 19/21 for a 2.06 GAA and 90.5 Sv%.

    He had a pretty decent game, even if his stats were less than stellar. He wasn’t tested all that much, but he was pretty sharp for most of the game. It stands to reason that his position as backup is safe.

    On D the 3rd pairing got them on the board, Riikola 1G and an even 0 while Marino had 1A and a +1. Czuczman and Ruhwedel put up goose eggs while Gudbranson and Warsofsky were scoreless at a -1.

    It was a big game for Riikola since he is a guy right on the fringe hoping to keep his roster spot, however with Pens cap situation he might end up getting waived (they probably only have room for 7D to start the year, so Riikola and Ruhwedel are battling for that last spot). Marino has been looking better, he has skill and seems to be teachable, but we will have to see how he performs in a real game situation when the AHL season starts. Czuczman and Warsofksy should be part of the WBS leadership group, so they are playing as expected. Gudbranson less impressive this game, but I think most people are more concerned about the specific D pairing rather than him as an individual player, he does what you expect from a big bodied defensive D who plays with an edge.

    Up front Agozzino had 1A while he and his wingers Di Pauli and Lafferty were all +1. Agozzino won just 3/7 for a 42.9 FO%. Bjorkqvist was an even 0 and every other forward was a -1 on the night. Blueger won 12/19 for a 63.2 FO%, Bjugstad 9/15 at a 60.0 FO%, and Blandisi 5/8 for a 62.5 FO%. McCann also won 4/5 for an 80.0 FO% and Laferty 2/4 at 50.0 FO%.

    Agozzino is another one who could be part of the WBS leadership group (Cramarossa and Trotman being the other most likely options that didn’t play this game). Di Pauli and Lafferty are also expected to be down in WBS and shoould be part of the AHL Top 6. Bjorkqvist isn’t there yet, but he has skill and it looks like he might be rather good in a year or two. Kahun did ok, but he would be a better fit skating alongside an offensive forward who can make help create some chances. I do like what the McCann and Bjugstad combo are capable of as a shutdown 3rd checking line (and both can center PK units). I also like the ZAR/Blueger combo on the 4th line, they are not only defensively responsible players but also have a bit more scoring touch than we normally see in 4th liners. Angello has been good this summer, I expect he will be a big part of the WBS lineup. Blandisi hasn’t stood out much to me yet, but he might be a bottom 6 guy in the AHL so good enough for that role. Lucchini I was thinking might end up in Wheeling to get me playing time, but he could be a Bottom 6 guy in WBS as well.

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  8. Day 11 – Roster Cuts

    They had a scheduled day off on Monday while WBS starts their training camp on Tuesday so as expected we see a large swathe of roster cuts as the final NHL lineup begins to take shape.

    They assigned the following players to WBS:
    1 G Emil Larmi
    2 D Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Niclas Almari
    7 F Anthony Angello, Justin Almeida, Oula Palve, Jake Lucchini, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Sam Lafferty, and Sam Miletic

    In addition the following players on waivers, if they clear they will be officially reassigned at noon:
    2 D David Warsofsky and Kevin Czuczman
    5 F Andrew Agozzino, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas Di Pauli, Joseph Blandisi, and Ryan Haggerty

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  9. Game 4: Pittsburgh Penguins 2 – Detroit Red Wings 3 (OT)

    Aston-Reese – Blueger – Tanev
    Rust – McCann – Legare
    Simon – Lafferty – Haggerty
    Di Pauli – Agozzino – Angello

    Joseph – Dumoulin
    Almari – Riikola
    Johnson – Marino

    Jarry

    Pens led shots 34-25 (27-20 at ES and 24-17 5-on-5) but trailed shot attempts 52-53. They went 1/5 on the PP and 3/3 on the PK.
    They trailed faceoffs 27-30, hits 23-33, and giveaways 2-6 but led takeaways 4-1 and blocked shots 17-7.

    Goals were Dumoulin (Tanev/Blueger) and PP McCann (Rust).

    Jarry played 62:56 stopping 22/25 for a 2.86 GAA and an 88.0 Sv%.

    He actually played a decent game, certainly better than the stat sheet indicates. One of the goals was put in by his own defender, and of course he got beat off a solid chance in OT. He didn’t play his way up the depth chart, not that we were expecting him to, but he still looks like he could be a solid NHL backup if only he had the opportunity.

    On D Dumoulin led the way with 1G and an even +0 while his partner Joseph was a +1. Almari put up goose eggs. Marino and Riikola were scoreless at a -1 while Johnson was a -2.

    Dumoulin had a strong performance, showing a little bit of offensive flash we don’t normally see from him. Joseph was fairly solid as well, but he’s still got a bit of development to go. Almari also played well enough, nothing flashy but no major mistakes either, but he’s still not NHL ready. Riikola did well despite the -1, he got some work on the PP and seemed to be able to handle it. He will still likely get put on waivers since they only have room for 7 D, but he is capable of being a #6/7 guy. Marino continues to play much the same way as he has the past few weeks, he makes a lot of mistakes and has a habit of getting muscled off pucks or caught out of position, but his offensive talent is still noticeable. Johnson… well, if this were an ideal world he wouldn’t be in the lineup, but as it stands it looks like he will be a massively overpaid 3rd pairing D who is often a defensive liability while not providing much in the way of offense to counter that.

    Up front McCann had 1G but was at a -2. Blueger had 1A and a +1, Tanev 1A and an even +0, and Rust 1A and a -1. Lafferty, Aston-Reese, Di Pauli, Haggerty, and Angello all put up goose eggs. Simon, Agozzino, and Legare were all a -1.

    McCann was unfortunately on for all 3 goals against, but otherwise he looked comfortable back at center and worked will with his linemates. Rust and Tanev both showed they can be solid middle 6 guys, but it still remains uncertain where exactly they fit in the depth chart. Blueger has also been playing well enough that he may have established himself as an everyday player slotting in as the 4 C. ZAR and Simon both seem to be competing for the same spot in the lineup now, I’m not really sure which one is more likely to play. Lafferty, Di Pauli, Haggerty, and Angello are all solid AHL option and could be a big part of the WBS lineup. Agozzino is also headed to WBS and will be part of the veteran leadership group. Legare was not as impressive as the prior game, and is headed back to play in juniors.

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  10. Game 5: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – Detroit Red Wings 2

    Guentzel – Crosby – Tanev
    Kahun – Malkin – Rust
    McCann – Bjugstad – Hornqvist
    Aston-Reese – Blueger – Simon

    Dumoulin – Letang
    Pettersson – Schultz
    Riikola – Gudbranson

    Murray

    Pens led shots 32-28 (26-21 ES) and shot attempts 50-42. They went 0/5 on the PP but were 4/4 on the PK.
    Pens led faceoffs 34-33, giveaways 5-4, and takeaways 7-4 but they trailed hits 29-36 while blocked shots were tied at 8.

    Goals were Tanev (Schultz/Guentzel), Rust (Schultz/Malkin), Simon (Aston-Reese), and Crosby (Guentzel/Hornqvist).

    Murray played the full 60:00 and stopped 26/28 for a 2.00 GAA and 92.9 Sv%.

    Murray had some issues early on where he didn’t look comfortable in net or made some sloppy plays or poor decisions (I am starting to dread him coming out of the net to play the puck in the trapezoid) but he cleaned it up by the end of the game and had a strong finish. He already had the starters position locked up before coming into camp, and he didn’t do anything to lose it.

    On D the star of the day was Schultz with 2A and both him and his partner Pettersson were at a +3. Gudbranson and Letang were both an even +0 while Dumoulin and Riikola were a -1.

    The Pettersson-Schultz pairing seemed to work quite well together, I like that combo and think it will be good going into the season. Dumoulin-Letang also work well together, it didn’t show on the scoreboard but Letang had some chances and Dumo was able to make some good moves to break up play coming back the other way. Riikola-Gudbranson wasn’t bad, the weak link on that pairing does seem to be Gudbranson, but it has potential and may improve as they get more used to skating together (and more used to the systems as neither played many games in Pittsburgh).

    Up front most fo the forwards got on the board. Guentzel 2A and a +2, Rust and Crosby each had 1G and a +1, Simon and Tanev each had 1A and an even +0, while Aston-Reese, Malkin, and Hornqvist were all 1A with a +1. Kahun and Blueger were scoreless at a +1 while McCann and Bjugstad were at a -1.

    Guentzel and Crosby did great together as usual, and while Tanev did end up with an assist I’m not sold on him being up on their line, late in the game when they put Hornqvist with them we immediately saw that chemistry they used to have before he signed the big extension. Rust looked good back up with Malkin, although Kahun seemed to have disappeared a bit. He is young still, getting used to a new team, and we’re not sure where exactly he fits so he has been shuffled around the lineup a bit. Blueger had a steady game while Simon and ZAR both played better than they had in recent games. McCann and Bjugstad weren’t bad, they have been using them like a tradition 3rd checking line. Of course the entire day’s performance for all the players comes with the caveat that the Pens dressed what is essentially their opening night lineup while Detroit’s top players were scratched since they still have a few games left.

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  11. Game 6: Pittsburgh Penguins 2 – Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

    Guentzel – Crosby – Tanev
    Kahun – Malkin – Rust
    McCann – Bjugstad – Hornqvist
    Aston-Reese – Blueger – Simon

    Dumoulin – Letang
    Pettersson – Schultz
    Johnson – Marino

    Murray

    Pens led shots 38-30 (32-21 ES) and shots attempts 60-57. They went 0/4 on the PP and 6/6 on the PK.
    They trailed faceoffs 32-37 and giveaways 3-5 but led hits 34-26, takeaways 5-4, and blocked shots 15-11.

    Goals were Hornqvist (Bjugstad/Schultz) and Rust (Aston-Reese/Schultz).

    Murray played 64:55 stopping 28/30 for a 1.85 GAA and 93.3 Sv%.

    It wasn’t actually a great game for Murray, which you wouldn’t know from looking at the box score. He was a bit shaky at times, flopping around and scrambling to make the save, but managed to do so for the first half of the game. What stands out most is the first Buffalo goal, it was a straight point shot from a D-man who isn’t known for scoring, there was no traffic so he saw it the whole way, he just missed the puck. It was bad enough that even the Pens announcers were discussing how Murray didn’t look good on that one. Also during the shootout the goals that scored weren’t brilliant plays, he just misread it and stood there as it sailed past him. He had issues last season as well, off to a slow start but picked it up by the end of the year, so no need to panic about an insignificant preseason game.

    On D Schultz had 2A and an even +0 while his partner Pettersson was a +1. Dumoulin, Johnson, and Marino put up goose eggs while Letang was scoreless at a -1.

    Schultz once again had a solid game, although maybe not so great in his own end. He seems to click really well with Pettersson and I am quite pleased with the potential that pairing has. Dumoulin was his usual steady self, and Letang… I don’t even really remember seeing Letang all that much, which is bad in that it means he wasn’t as entrenched in the offense as usual but also good because it means he generally avoided the sloppy D-zone play. Johnson wasn’t terrible, which for him is a positive performance, but his partner Marino had a worse night than usual. Ideally neither of them would be in the lineup, and as of now it is looking like the plan is to use a 3rd pairing of Riikola and Gudbranson, but it is hard to fathom why the Pens would keep Marino up to watch from the press box, he is the #7 or #8 D on the depth chart (depending on where you rank Ruhwedel, but I’d give him the #7).

    Up front Hornqvist had 1G and a +1 while Rust was 1G and an even +0, then we have Aston-Reese 1A and a +2 with Bjugstad 1A and a +1. Tanev, McCann, Blueger, Guentzel, and Crosby all put up goose eggs. Finally Simon and Malkin were scoreless at a -1 while Kahun was a -2.

    Hornqvist and Rust both had strong performances, they may have been inspired by their demotions to the Bottom 6 (and perhaps trade rumours) so it was nice to see them trying to get back in the running. Unfortunately Rust took a puck to the hand and appears that he will be out long term, he is week-to-week and they plan to put him on LTIR. Aston-Reese and Blueger also did fairly well, although Bjugstad only won 5/14 for a 35.7 FO%. Blueger continued to make a case for sticking around as an every day player at 4 C, he won 9/17 for a 52.9 FO%. Guentzel did ok, but after Crosby got hurt he was a lot less effective (Crosby also struggled at the faceoff dot, winning just 2/6 fora 33.3 FO%). McCann got to move back to C after Crosby went out, but he won just 3/7 for a 42.9 FO%. Simon didn’t have a great game, he wasn’t bad, but he didn’t do enough to stand out considering he is battling for a roster spot. In a fully healthy lineup he would probably be the #13 F. Malkin didn’t have his best game, part of it may have been the added pressure of skating double shifts with Crosby out, but also his random rotation of wingers isn’t letting him get comfortable playing with anybody yet. He won 10/21 for a 47.6 FO%. Kahun did not have a good game, and so far hasn’t really managed to fit in anywhere in the lineup after being tried skating alongside pretty much everybody. I think given time Kahun would be one of the better Top 6 winger options, but he needs to be given the opportunity to learn through his mistakes.

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