As we look forward to the kick off of the NHL season, and the Penguins opener on Thursday October 4th against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Capitals, it’s time to look at the Penguins final roster for the season opener. On Monday, they sent Down Zach Aston-Reese and defenseman Zach Trotman to WBS, and the final piece was Tristan Jarry going out with an injury. They’re starting the season with 13 forwards, 8 defenseman and 2 goaltenders, including 19 of 23 who skated in Pittsburgh last year. Here’s what the roster looks like coming into the start of the season:
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon – Derick Brassard – Bryan Rust
Matt Cullen – Riley Sheahan – Daniel Sprong
Juuso Riikola – Kris Letang
Jamie Oleksiak – Justin Shultz
Olli Maata – Jack Johnson
Brian Dumoulin (injured) – Chad Ruhwedel
Daniel Sprong is looking to make this his first long term stint with the Penguins in his 3 years with the team, and I think I speak for all Penguins fans when I say that I really want Sprong to surprise me. I wanted him to surprise me when GMJR insisted he play and Mike Johnston didn’t want him to play. I think that starting him off on the fourth line is probably the right thing to do, even though he did have a few great moments while skating with Crosby last year. Same goes for Dominik Simon. He played in 33 regular season games with the big club last year, showing a few spurts of brilliance playing alongside Crosby and Sprong. He’s shown a great amount of versatility, and a willingness to play on either wing, and do either pretty well.
An injury to top pair defenseman Brian Dumoulin left a spot open for preseason sensation Juuso Riikola, who practiced to the left of Kris Letang earlier in the week. Riikola (24) was a preseason standout, and his transition from KalPa of SM-Liiga to the NHL seems to have been easy so far. He’s got an offensive edge and netted 2 goals in 3 games, but still isn’t afraid to get into the corners and play a physical game. I’m hopeful about his development and think that he is going to be a key piece to watch this year on the Pittsburgh blue line.
The Penguins also added Jack Johnson this offseason. He plays hockey. He doesn’t sign that Banana Pancakes song. Well maybe he does but he’s not that Jack Johnson. Maybe he will play hockey well, or maybe he won’t. Did Torts really keep him from playing because of hockey reasons while he was in Columbus? To get the 5 year $3.25 mil deal that he got, he better be able to back it up with his play. I wasn’t thrilled with his signing, but I’m trying to find the best in it. I’m willing to give the guy a chance to win me over.
All-in-all I think the Penguins may be even stronger this year than they were last year. The surprise of Juuso Riikola was the talk of the preseason, overshadowing Daniel Sprong being kind of absent. We’ll see how the lines shake up and who ends up where. I can’t think because I’m so excited for the season to actually start. I’ll return with thoughts after the first game to give a more in depth breakdown.
Lets Go Pens.