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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

Phil Sid and Evgeni arent slowing down anytime soon

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Thirtieth up are the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins who just won their 5th Stanley Cup last year. They are in their 50th season as a franchise and after a rough patch in the early 2000’s have been arguably THE, if not one of the best teams over the last 10 years.

Basic Stats:

2016-2017 NHL Standings: 3rd

Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd

Metropolitan Division Standings: 2nd

Goals for Rank: 1st

Goals against Rank: 17th

Overview: Pittsburgh Penguins. They are good. Really good. THE BEST offense in the league last season, the tandem of Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin all scored over 70 points last year. 17 teams in the league didn’t have a single player with more than 70 points and the Penguins had 3! stop and think about that, more then half the league didnt have what the Penguins had three of. I ‘suppose’ you could knock the age factor as all three of them are over 29 years old but they don’t seem to be showing signs of slowing down and they are bringing up the next generation of talent in Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary. They finished 3rd in the league standings and 1st in goals for while working through injuries of Kris Letang (out half the season), Evgeny Malkin (out 20 games), Conor Sheary (20 games) and Carl Hagelin (out 20 games). On defense, they weren’t the best, they were below average, but missong half the season from your marquee defender takes its toll. They worked through injuries to Olli Matta and Trevor Daley on defense. All the while Justin Schultz, the 27 year old Wisconsin grad who spent 3.5 seasons with the Oilers before being traded for a third round pick to the Penguins, stepped in to help lock down the defense in Kris Letang’s absence. Schultz scored 51 points with a +27 and 20 PPP across 78 games last year. Only 2 defenseman had 50+ points and a plus/minus over 20 last year, Justin Schultz and Duncan Keith. In net there is no longer a question as to who the starter is. No more Marc-Andre Fleury opening the season and Matt Martin closing it out. It’s officially the Matt Martin show as the 23 year old has a career 2.32 GAA and .925 sv% with the team finishing as the 14thbest goalie in GAA, 6th best SV % with the 10th most starts despite playing in at least 6 fewer starts than every one of the top 10 goalies. Finally, to cap off a team that seemingly has no serious gaps is head coach Mike Sullivan who is averaging a Stanley Cup per season with the team (not a bad track record).

Major Additions: Mark Hunwick and Antti Niemi

Major Subtractions: Beau Bennett, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Chris Kunitz, Mark Streit Marc-Andre Fleury (it’s a daunting list to look at but it’s largely piece players, the team retained it’s strong core).

Prospects and Picks:

- Zach Aston-Reese. Undrafted Zach was signed by the Penguins after watching him progress over his four years at Northeastern University. Zach ended up with 148 points over 145 games in his career, this was capped off by 63 points across 38 games his senior year. The Penguins signed him and put him on the Wilkes-Barrer Penguins where he had 8 points in his first 10 games. He has amazing talent to go with his tenacious grit. He does not back down from the physical nature of the game and while he is likely ready for the physicality of the NHL stage the team will probably give him at least another half season in the AHL to see if he can sustain the production he showed in a small sample last year.

- Daniel Sprong. The 46th overall pick in the 2015 draft has yet to get a taste of regular season play in the AHL despite jumping from the QMJHL to the pros two years ago. He has been very successful with the Charlottetown Islanders but this year will be his first real taste with the Baby Penguins during a regular season after he scored 5 goals in the playoffs for them to finish last year. I think EITHER Zach or Daniel is up by year end but I’m not sure if it’s 1 or both. He still has to work on reading the ice and knowing where to be but it will come to him in the AHL.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:

It’s tough to find a “sleeper” on the team that scored the most points in the AHL so I’ll go to two players who will see more time this year:

-Kris Letang. If anyone in your league forgets that Letang is a top 10 scoring defensemen in the league, punish them by picking him up and letting him dominate your team.

-Also, if by chance anyone forgets that Matt Martin will be getting more than 49 starts this year, pick him up, enjoy the Wins and the top 10 stats in GAA and Sv%.

Cap Situation:

They currently have around $3.3MM with 22 players signed.

Projected finish:

2017-2018 NHL Standings: 3rd

Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd

Metropolitan Division: 2nd

NHL 3rd: Columbus Blue Jackets (Eastern Conference 2nd; Metropolitan Division 2nd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/9/2/16241116/2017-2018-nhl-preview-washington-capitals

NHL 4th: Minnesota Wild (Western Conference 2nd; Central Division 1st)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/9/2/16241116/2017-2018-nhl-preview-washington-capitals

NHL 5th: Washington Capitals (Eastern Conference 3rd; Metropolitan Division 3rd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/9/2/16241116/2017-2018-nhl-preview-washington-capitals

NHL 6th: Nashville Predators (Western Conference 3rd; Central Division 2nd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/28/16217274/2017-2018-nhl-preview-toronto-maple-leafs

NHL 7th: Toronto Maple Leafs (Eastern Conference 4th; Atlantic Division 1st)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/28/16217274/2017-2018-nhl-preview-toronto-maple-leafs

NHL 8th: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference 4th; Central Division 3rd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/27/16205968/2017-2018-nhl-preview-chicago-blackhawks

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/25/16199864/2017-2018-nhl-preview-tampa-bay-lightning

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/23/16189250/2017-2018-nhl-preview-anaheim-ducks

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/21/16180482/2017-2018-nhl-preview-ottawa-senators

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/19/16158876/2017-2018-nhl-preview-montreal-canadiens

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/17/16158566/2017-2018-nhl-preview-new-york-rangers

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/15/16148478/2017-2018-nhl-preview-calgary-flames

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/13/16136194/2017-2018-nhl-preview-carolina-hurricanes

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/11/16131070/2017-2018-nhl-preview-san-jose-sharks

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/9/16121932/2017-2018-nhl-preview-dallas-stars

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/7/16109414/2017-2018-nhl-preview-philadelphia-flyers

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/4/16091820/2017-2018-nhl-preview-winnipeg-jets

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/2/16082706/2017-2018-nhl-preview-st-louis-blues

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/8/1/16075934/2017-2018-nhl-preview-boston-bruins

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/29/16059872/2017-2018-nhl-preview-buffalo-sabres

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/27/16050954/2017-2018-nhl-preview-arizona-coyotes

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/25/16027648/2017-2018-nhl-preview-los-angeles-kings

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/23/16008676/2017-2018-nhl-preview-new-jersey-devils

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/21/16008282/2017-2018-nhl-preview-detroit-red-wings

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/19/16000766/2017-2018-nhl-preview-new-york-islanders

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/17/15981620/2017-2018-nhl-preview-vancouver-canucks

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/15/15977312/2017-2018-nhl-preview-florida-panthers

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/13/15958366/2017-2018-nhl-preview-las-vegas-golden-knights-marc-andre-fleury

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)

https://www.faketeams.com/2017/7/11/15953066/2017-2018-nhl-preview-colorado-avalanche