Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Penguins begin training camp Saturday, competing for spot on opening day roster

With Penguins training camp beginning this Saturday, there are a lot of roster spots opened up for grabs, especially in the bottom six and the third defensive pairing. Kyle Dubas made numerous additions to the team, but now it’s in coach Mike Sullivan’s hands to get the roster ready for opening night on October 10 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Not to think too far ahead, each day in training camp is a chance for the team to improve, and preseason games will also play a factor. In training camp, players step up, proving they deserve to earn a spot on the opening day roster. As for now, here is our projected lineup:


Bryan Rust–Sidney Crosby–Rickard Rakell

Reilly Smith–Evgeni Malkin–Alex Nylander

Drew O’Connor–Lars Eller–Rem Pitlick

Matt Nieto–Noel Acciari–Jeff Carter

Honorable Mentions: Andreas Johnsson, Colin White (PTO)


Ryan Graves–Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson–Erik Karlsson

Pierre-Olivier Joseph–Ty Smith

Honorable Mentions: Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, Mark Pysyk (PTO)


Tristan Jarry–Alex Nedeljkovic

The two most obvious positions to be filled are the first and second line centers, which will be occupied once more by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. 

For the past several years, Crosby has played with Jake Guentzel on his wing, but he won’t have his linemate come opening night due to Guentzel’s offseason ankle surgery. Sid has played with Bryan Rust many times on many occasions, and he is a great option to keep that first line productive as Guentzel misses the first few games. Rickard Rakell produced 60 points last year and spent most of the season as Crosby’s other linemate. He will likely keep his spot on that top line.

When Kyle Dubas acquired Reilly Smith in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, many were quick to point him out as a likely replacement for Jason Zucker on Malkin’s line. Though Smith could also be another option to fill in for Guenztel on the top line, he will seemingly play most of the season at Malkin’s side. We think that, in order to establish some early chemistry, Smith will be with Malkin on opening night. We also believe that Alex Nylander will take the left wing position while Bryan Rust plays up top. Nylander has briefly played with Malkin during his short stints in Pittsburgh and could be a good support player for that line.

One of the biggest questions when Kyle Dubas was hired by the team was how he would address the issue of the bottom six forwards. In response, Dubas signed and traded for support players like Lars Eller, Matt Nieto, Noel Acciari, Rem Pitlick, and Andreas Johnsson, with Eller being the one poised to take over as the 3rd line center. Fellow newcomer Rem Pitlick has played a total of 5 NHL seasons with 3 different organizations. At this point of his career being 26 he is mainly a bottom 6 winger. If he could put up at least 10 goals the Pens would be all for that. Drew O’Connor, who has been with the organization for the past three seasons, will likely find a more permanent spot on the roster and play much of his time as a third line winger. 

Noel Acciari was a good pick up by Dubas and he will make a decently strong fourth line center. Putting up 23 points in 77 games last year for Toronto, Acciari also won 53% of his faceoff. His likely linemate, Jeff Carter, could also slot into the center position on this line.  Even though we are not personally that fond of Carter, Mike Sullivan loves getting him to take faceoffs, which he won 59.4% of last season, leading the team in that department. Matt Nieto will provide a much needed defensive presence on the fourth line for the Pens, something that was desperately needed the past few seasons.   

As everyone knows by now the Pens added reigning Norris Trophy Trophy winner Erik Karlsson who is an offensive juggernaut on the blue line. The question is where does Karlsson fit best to help the team win? This is a good problem to have for Mike Sullivan. Primarily the Pens will have 2 number 1 caliber defenseman on the ice for 40 minutes plus on any given night. Also with Letang getting up there in age he will no longer have to carry the load as much as he’s done for the past couple seasons.

Now getting to the projected outlook on the defense. In this projection the pair of Graves- Letang is the number one pairing. Graves is coming off a season in which he had 8 goals and 18 assists in 78 games with the New Jersey Devils. Essentially he will have to fill the shoes for Brain Dumolin who went to the Seattle Kraken this offseason. Graves is a big body with a height of 6 ‘5 and weight of 220 and has a defensive mindset to his game which will fare well with Letang’s aggressive offensive game.

The second pair is a duo of Swedes in Petterson and Karlsson. Last year Petterson was one of the bigger bright spots on the entire team let alone the defense. He took a huge jump in defensive impacts and had his best offensive season with 24 points. Petterson is defense first while on the other hand Karlsson is all about offensive production. That has been his bread and butter ever since coming into the league. With a 101 point season with the sharks he will add some offense on the blue line which has been lacking in recent years. In training camp it will be interesting to see how they work together and get familiar with each other’s game. A good defensive pairing needs great communication and they need to think one step ahead together on the ice. 

Finally the third pair, where Sullivan has a big decision to make. You could make a solid argument that both slots are up for grabs. If it were up to us we’d say let the kids have a crack at the last pairing injecting some more youth into a line up that has a lot of veteran presence. POJ had a career high in games played last year with 75 but towards the end of the year he did not play as well as he could have. This year with a full year of NHL experience under his belt he should be a more improved player. Last summer, the Penguins parted ways with defender John Marino to the New Jersey Devils, and the main part the Pens got in return was deferender Ty Smith. Smith, an offensive defenseman, who spent time both in the NHL and AHL with Wilkes Barre. It is his time to step up and be a contributor to the team and after all that’s why the Pens got him.


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