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Insider Only The Expectation Game at Forward: Season Projections for Opening Night Roster

FORWARDS

LINE 1: Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel | 17-18 Season: 22 Goals, 48 Pts | Projections: 29 Goals, 67 Pts |
Buzz: Guentzel starred once again in the 2018 postseason with 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 playoff games. We all know about his great production in the postseason. In the present, what the Penguins are looking for is more consistency in the regular season.

There’s a lot at stake here. Guentzel and the Penguins know what a 65 type point season will mean for Guentzel this coming summer, a likely payday in the $5+ million range on a long-term deal.

The player is extremely motivated for a big season, changing some habits away from the rink with his brother moving in with him to help the daily rigors of being a young professional athlete, and if Guentzel stays in a role as Crosby’s full-time left winger, expectations have to start at the minimum of Guentzel putting up a 28-29 goal, 60+ point season.


Sidney Crosby | 17-18 Season: 29 Goals, 89 Pts | Projection: 39 Goals, 96 Pts |
Buzz: Sidney Crosby’s throne as the greatest offensive player in the game now goes to Connor McDavid. But, the 31 year old is still the most complete player in the game and last postseason proved that again with 21 points in 12 games.

Crosby has been below 90 points for four straight seasons but an early summer could do wonders for a motivated Crosby where we should see the goal numbers creep back to the 40 range.


Patric Hornqvist | 17-18 Season: 29 Goals, 49 Pts | Projection: 25 Goals, 47 Pts
Buzz: Hornqvist enters the first year of a new five year contract. He plays the type of style where you wonder when he’ll start to hit a wall but that shouldn’t be this year just yet. Hornqvist is such a smart player, keeps him self in excellent shape where there’s a reason he has 9 straight seasons of 20 goals (Minus lockout season). Expect that trend to continue.


LINE 2: Carl Hagelin – Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel

Carl Hagelin | 17-18 Season: 10 Goals, 31 Pts | Projection: 16 Goals, 39 Pts |
Buzz: Hagelin being at the forefront of trade rumors ended this past summer. In fact, the organization is wide open to Hagelin playing his way to an extension after the season. He is that valued by the coaching staff and he’s another player the Penguins feel with an early summer, we should see better offensive numbers. Don’t bet against players in line for one last adequate contract.


Evgeni Malkin | 17-18 Season: 42 Goals, 98 Pts | Projection: 33 Goals, 81 Pts |
Buzz: Malkin topped 72 pts for the first time in six seasons with an MVP type season in 17-18 with 42 goals, 98 pts. It was also the first season over that span that he appeared in over 69 games. The expectation game should be lower for Malkin than matching his numbers from last season as he’s rarely a lock to play close to 82 games.


Phil Kessel | 17-18 Season: 34 Goals, 92 Pts | Projection: 28 Goals, 74 Pts |
Buzz: As one team source said over the summer, ‘the Penguins don’t make the playoffs last year without Kessel’s 90-point season.’ That is likely true but that didn’t stop the Penguins from aggressively looking for trade suitors in June. The Mike Sullivan – Phil Kessel dynamic is still there and not going away. All parties involved are stuck with each other and another great regular season would quiet all the talk until June again. Another 90 point season is not likely.


LINE 3: Dominik Simon – Derick Brassard – Bryan Rust

Dominik Simon | 17-18 Season: 4 Goals, 12 Pts | Projection: 13 Goals, 39 Pts |
Buzz: A breakout player in 18-19? The coaching staff strongly believes so as do players in the room. It is fascinating how highly thought of Simon is by his teammates. I’m buying in……


Derick Brassard | 17-18 Season: 21 Goals, 46 Pts | Projection: 24 Goals, 56 Pts |
Buzz: Will the Penguins be rewarded for holding on to Brassard? A big development in the preseason was Brassard healthy and flourishing. He looks extremely comfortable with his linemates and he’s viewed internally as the X-factor that will dictate how good they can be this season.


Bryan Rust | 17-18 Season: 13 Goals, 38 Pts | Projection: 19 Goals, 51 Pts |
Buzz: Rust looked phenomenal in training camp, showing great explosiveness and shot the puck extremely well. His value can’t be denied. The coaches can and will play him everywhere in the lineup and the organization believes this can be the season we see more offensive upside come out. However, Rust’ style of play has yet to see him stay healthy.


LINE 4: Matt Cullen – Riley Sheahan – Daniel Sprong

Matt Cullen | 17-18 Season: 11 Goals, 22 Pts | Projection: 10 Goals, 26 pts
Buzz: Jim Rutherford tried aggressively to require Cullen last year at the deadline and Cullen is now back in the fold. He’ll start the season at left wing and showed in the preseason he still has the wheels to play a regular role. What played out for Cullen in Minnesota was showing his age in the defensive zone where he became a liability from a physical stand point. That is more of an area of concern than offensively as he should have a chance to still put up 9-10 goals this season.


Riley Sheahan | 17-18 Season: 11 Goals, 31 Pts | Projection: 9 Goals, 29 Pts |
Buzz: Sheahan as the 4th line center is a good situation for the player and team. Sheahan can cover for Cullen down low and you feel a lot better about Sheahan as the 4th line center than you do as the 3rd line center. Where his season goes could be a lot of different ways, though, anything over last years #’s should be looked at as a bonus.


Daniel Sprong | 17-18 Season: 2 Goals, 3 Pts | Projection: (6 Goals, 16 Pts – Traded)
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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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