The Pittsburgh Penguins are running it back with their group of veterans. The organization quietly had a very strong off-season, and should be in position to make a playoff run in 2022-23. They made some subtle moves to bolster their supporting cast. The core returns in full, and should look to improve off of their 103 point campaign from a year ago. There still are some weaknesses in this group, but I’ll get into all of that as I preview this team’s 2022-23 season.
For starters, the team only lost two valuable regulars from last year’s roster. Evan Rodrigues was their biggest loss. He is coming off of a year in which he had 19 goals and 43 points. He averaged almost 16 minutes of ice time per game and register a +3 plus/minus. The other is defensemen John Marino. He played in 81 games and scored 25 points with a +1. Who did they get to replace these two? Well, Marino was dealt to the Devils. The return included a third-round pick and defenseman Ty Smith. He will be the immediate replacement for Marino.
On the other hand, Rodrigues is an unrestricted free agent who will likely not fit within the cap for the Penguins. When you look at the forwards group as a whole, they may not need to replace him. They are healthy as we stand today, and this group is deep, so I do not think they will miss him as much as you might expect. The biggest move they made all off-season was a trade in which landed them defenseman Jeff Petry from the Montreal Canadiens. They also received forward Ryan Poehling in the deal. Jan Rutta was another key signing made by the team this off-season. Overall, it was not that busy of an off-season, but a deal here and there lead to a pretty good summer for the Penguins.
These projected lines come from Daily Faceoff where they update projected lines year round for all of your favorite NHL teams. You can check the Penguins projected lines here. Here is how the lines look as of today:
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn – Jeff Carter – Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling – Teddy Blueger – Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson – Jeff Petry
Ty Smith – Jan Rutta
The forwards have a very deep group of forwards. Their top three lines are as good as anyone’s in the NHL, if not better. It is all started up the middle with their three centers. Crosby, Malkin, and Carter have all remained productive with age. Malkin’s biggest concern is health, having missed 41 games in 2021-22. Even still, he still scored 42 points in those 41 games. Carter scored 19 goals and 45 points in 2021-22. He was a productive third-line center. The penguins will hope for him to replicate that production this season. For the most part, we know what they can get out of the offense when healthy.
The defensive group is where the biggest changes come. They bring in three new regulars. This was a team that already allowed the fifth fewest goals in the entire league in 2021-22. They are really turning into a team that can win in many ways. That top line of Letang and Dumoulin will produce plenty of offense, as well as stable defense on their own end. Petry has always been considered a great player in his own end, but also contributes offensive production. He and Pettersson should make a nice line 2.
This third pairing has two polar opposites together. Smith has shown flashes of offensive ability in his first two NHL campaigns, whereas Rutta has become a top flight defensive-defenseman. In addition, he has not had a negative plus/minus since his rookie season in which he was just a -1. A year ago, he had a +25 with the Lightning. With him and Smith, have a chance to become a really special third pairing that can score and defend.
In the net, they return their starter and backup. Jarry comes off a year in which he went 34-18-6 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average. He will have a chance to build off of that and be even better in 2022-23. DeSmith was a very steady backup for them. He was 11-6-5 with a .914 and 2.79. The goalie situation is very good and should be a reason they get a lot of wins in 2022-23.
Points: 1-Sidney Crosby (90), 2-Jake Guentzel (88), 3-Evgeni Malkin (73)
Goals: 1-Jake Guentzel (41), 2-Evgeni Malkin (34), 3-Sidney Crosby (32)
Assists: 1-Sidney Crosby (58), 2-Kris Letang (55), 3-Jake Guentzel (47)
I believe the Penguins will have a better season than in 2021-22, but I do see them finishing in the same spot as last season. They have a great offense, although they’ll likely deal with some minor injuries throughout the season. They have a very strong blueline with very good goaltending on the backend. This team should be able to remain top three in the Metropolitan Division. Now, I can see them finish as the top seed in the division if they can remain relatively healthy all season, but that might be an unrealistic reality. For that reason, I give them the three-seed in the Metropolitan.
Penguins fans have a lot to get excited about in 2022. This roster is stacked and they will almost certainly return to the postseason. They will have their hands full in the playoffs with a loaded Eastern Conference. At the end of the day, I believe that this season will likely end in a first round exit to one of the young Metropolitan teams in the Rangers or Hurricanes. They will give them everything they have and push a series to six or seven games before exiting in round one. That is how I see the season going for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2022-23, but fans have a lot to be excited for.