The Pittsburgh Penguins improved to 2-2 in the preseason with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon, and among the strongest performers today was top pick Kasperi Kapanen.
Kapanen who struggled in his first two preseason games, was much improved in all facets.
He opened the scoring with a power play goal 5:52 into the game, beating Sergei Bobrovsky with a wrist shot from 15 ft out to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Kapanen showed his top-6 ability with the goal but it was his overall game that stood out the most vs the Blue Jackets.
Little things such as his wall play was improved and in the offensive zone, Kapanen possessed the puck well and showed excellent poise. While he’s never going to be someone who throws his body around much, Kapanen got to loose pucks quickly in the offensive zone by using his speed and hockey sense.
The Beau Bennett injury has certainly brought Kapanen and Oscar Sundqvist into the discussion for a nine game look. Sundqvist does not possess the high end skill as Kapanen but has a more well rounded game and better size. The consensus from scouts continues to be that the best long-term move for Kapanen is to go back to Europe for another year and develop properly.
However, the guy whose opinion matters the most, Jim Rutherford, he has been very open to the idea of Kapanen starting the season in Pittsburgh and that’s where things appear likely headed.
— Team officials view Scott Harrington as an ideal long-term replacement for Paul Martin but it’s not just because the Penguins feel Harrington has the potential to log 25+ minutes and play a shutdown role in a year or two. They see some Martin similarities in Harrington’s ability to make that crucial first pass on the breakout, an underrated part of his game.
— Marcel Goc has been seeing the ice extremely well all preseason, finding players in space. He made a great feed on Kapanen’s goal. With Bennett out, one option for the Penguins could be to play Goc with Brandon Sutter on the third line to add more scoring potential to the third line once Malkin is back.