Filling the Gaps to Start the Season by @Puck_Princess17


In just over a week, the Penguins will open the 2016-2017 regular season to a blaze of fanfare. They begin the celebration of the franchise's 50th anniversary and they will also be raising the Stanley Cup Championship banner to the rafters of Consol Energy Center.

No new season would be complete without a little injury drama. Matt Murray was injured during the World Cup and is not set to return till at least the end of the month. Tristan Jarry, however, has shown that he can be counted upon as a solid back up for Marc-Andre Fleury having posted 2 shutouts (so far) in the preseason and has officially been announced as the backup for the home opener.

The other questions involve the defense and forwards.

Bryan Rust will miss the start of the season due to needing an extended recovery period for his injuries from the post season. Rust may actually miss more time than expected from what head Coach Mike Sullivan said in a recent interview. Forwards Jake Guetzel and Scott Wilson have had the spotlight on them but we also have to take into account that Oscar Sunqvist is in the mix (but has yet to play in the preseason).

Jake Guetzel is the new "young gun". He has been stellar so far in Wilkes-Barre and that has carried over into what he wants to show in training camp.  He put up a team-leading 6 shots against in the preseason game against the Blackhawks, and was a presence around the net. He is hungry for the puck and has the speed and skill set to play on the top NHL team. 

He has played in every preseason game so far and is being rewarded for his efforts with an extended look from management. If he stays on pace and continues to impress, I could see him being brought up to the majors sooner rather than later if not staying up entirely

Scott Wilson is picking up right where he left off. Now back on his feet after a season ending injury, he has made short work of reminding Penguins management why he was worth the one-way contract offer. Against Detroit, he had a team leading 20:36 of ice time. Against the Blackhawks he had 17:27 of ice time. He is taking up space in front of the net, getting off great shots, has a goal in the preseason and is bring the physical presence we all know and love.

Head Coach Mike Sullivan has been heard comparing him to a young Chris Kunitz and he has the tenacity to play along side Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. All of these aspects are why many have him being chosen to fill the open slot.

Oscar Sunqvist was part of the puzzle that won the Penguins the Stanley Cup. He has been called upon to fill open slots a few times now and has impressed on each outing even scoring his first NHL goal on a beautiful breakaway when the Penguins were shorthanded. He had to miss the rookie tournament due to injury and is working on getting back in shape.  However, as of this morning, he has been reassigned to Wilkes-Barre but I expect to be seeing him again soon as he will continue to grow and impress within the organization.

It should be noted that former Wheeling Nailer, Carter Rowney (who scored the opening goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets (Oct 2nd) is also getting an extended look as he was not named in the 17 players reassigned to WBS the following morning. Kevin Porter and Tom Sestito are also still in the mix but I expect would be considered long shots. However they both continue to show their worth on different levels.


There is still that defensive slot to fill as well. The safe money would be on Justin Schultz however Steve Olesky has made his mark in the preseason (as well as yet another mark on his face). Olesky, like Sunqvist, he has also been reassigned and now must clear waivers in order to join WBS once again. That leaves two other major players for that open slot. Lukas Bengtsson has been out with illness.

David Warsofsky is back to his game and could definitely give Schultz a run for his money. He is a mobile skater, aggressive on the puck, and bold on the ice. He isn't the biggest man on the ice (5'9, 170 pounds soaking wet) but he can take and give a hit and will go back to the play to help get the puck out of the Penguins zone. 

He has been used on the Power Play a bit during the preseason due to "offensive instincts" (as HCMS was quoted when speaking about Warsofsky's abilities). With continued positive play, he will definitely make the selection process for Oct. 13th a difficult one.

Then there is even Derek Pouliot, who had a much better showing against the Columbus Blue Jackets. I give this kid a hard time because I know the potential he has and it was a nice surprise to see actual improvement.  Granted he is still not up to where he is expected to be, but it really seemed like he was trying against the Jackets. Was it coming from the confidence shown in him and being put on the first defensive pairing or has something finally clicked? There are not many preseason games yet in which to showcase himself so if he is to challenge for that spot, it needs to be done with haste.

These are scenarios other teams wish they had. Having so many promising and skilled young players to spare, having your "pick of the litter" and knowing you are going to get a great player when needed is a great feeling to have. While there are only a few open spots for the team, it is safe to say that the Penguins have a bright future when it comes to young talent. Good luck boys, and may the best man for the job give the Capitals fits come opening night.

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About Medina Menozzi

I write about the Penguins and anything associated with them. I work too much. I'm obsessed with Nutella. I could live off pizza and cereal. Kat Stratford is my spirit animal.
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