August is arguably the worst month of all for hockey fans. Not only are there no games being played, but the NHL Draft and Free Agency have both passed as well. It’s an awkward time where each team is virtually set for next season, but is still too early to think about training camp and preseason beginnning. In the absence of everything, predictions become a huge part of August in the hockey world. Fans want to know where they can expect their team to finish, and how well their favourite players will do.
Well, if you’re a Penguins fan, we’ve got you covered today. With the roster likely set for opening night, barring an injury, *knock on wood*, or a switch on the fourth line, we know the 21 players who should be in the lineup come October 8th.
So, we’ve predicted each Penguin’s games played, goals, assists and points for the 2015-16 season, using the players we project to be in the opening night lineup.
Sidney Crosby – 79 GP, 37 G, 60 A, 97 PTS
Crosby bounces back from a quiet year, with the addition of Kessel. He will score the most goals since he potted 51 in 2009-10 and claim the Art Ross Trophy once again.
Phil Kessel – 82 GP, 38 G, 45 A, 83 PTS
Kessel reaps the rewards of playing alongside either Crosby or Malkin all year and also becomes a dynamic power play scorer. He sets a career high with 38 goals.
Evgeni Malkin – 72 GP, 31 G, 48 A, 79 PTS
Malkin continues to be dominant force on the ice and benefits with the added depth throughout the Penguins lineup. He continues to grow his two-way game as well.
Patric Hornqvist – 74 GP, 28 G, 31 A, 59 PTS
Hornqvist enjoys his second season as a Penguin and celebrates by setting a career high in points. He has the potential to break 30 goals if he plays a full 82-game season.
Chris Kunitz – 66 GP, 22 G, 31 A, 53 PTS
Kunitz continues to get the job done at 36 years old, but is hampered by a few nagging injuries. His goal total recovers from 17 last year, but will never be what it used to.
David Perron – 76 GP, 23 G, 26 A, 49 PTS
Perron has a better, yet still disappointing season with the Penguins, as he continues to try to find a permanent role in the top-six. He spends time flipping between the second and third line.
Nick Bonino – 75 GP, 21 G, 26 A, 47 PTS
Bonino thrives under the Penguins style of play and falls just short of setting personal goal and point bests. Playing alongside Fehr, they form a terrific third line.
Eric Fehr – 72 GP, 17 G, 20 A, 37 PTS
Fehr is the Penguins best penalty killer, taking Sutter’s place, and sets a career high in points. He finds great chemistry and his inner playmaker with Bonino.
Sergei Plotnikov – 63 GP, 12 G, 21 A, 33 PTS
Plotnikov has an up and down first season in the NHL, but impresses overall. He struggled to find his role, but was able to contribute under limited ice time.
Beau Bennett – 68 GP, 13 G, 19 A, 32 PTS
Bennett finally has a decent season, but not quite a breakout year. Battling with Plotnikov for ice time, Bennett’s totals suffer a bit, but overall he shows solid progression in his development.
Pascal Dupuis – 55 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 PTS
Dupuis’ age starts to show as he is hindered by injuries and faces much less ice time. He will ponder retirement due to his deteriorating game.
Scott Wilson – 43 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 PTS
Wilson has a decent rookie season, finding 43 games on the fourth line. He fits in well with the pace and style, and ensures a permanent spot on the roster for 2016-17.
Kris Letang – 74 GP, 9 G, 48 A, 57 PTS
Letang stays healthy for the most part and continues to be an offensively dynamic defenceman. His goal total drops with the addition of forward depth, but points keep piling in.
Olli Maatta – 79 GP, 13 G, 28 A, 41 PTS
Maatta puts 2014-15 behind him and nearly plays the entire year. He progresses well and proves to be a solid first pairing defenceman with time on the second power play unit.
Derrick Pouliot – 78 GP, 10 G, 24 A, 34 PTS
Pouliot finds a permanent place on the second pairing and shows why he was an 8th overall pick with his composure and excellent offensive instincts to join the rush and create scoring opportunities.
Ian Cole – 75 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 PTS
Cole remains solid on the back end and finds chemistry with Pouliot, increasing his point total to a career high. At 26, he finally becomes an everyday NHL’er.
Ben Lovejoy – 62 GP, 3 G, 12 A, 15 PTS
Lovejoy is good in the time he is given, but sometimes finds himself in the coach’s doghouse. He remains a third pairing defenceman with little upside, while Penguins fans reminisce the days of Simon Despres.
Rob Scuderi – 56 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS
Scuderi’s age catches up to him as he suffers a few small injuries. He falls down to the third pairing with limited minutes and is watched like Kimmo Timonen on the Blackhawks last Spring.
Overall, the Penguins have one of the most potent offences in the league. The addition of Kessel gives Crosby or Malkin a natural goal scoring winger and a go-to shooter for he power play. Adding Bonino and Fehr also gives the Pens a fantastic third line with tremendous upside. The depth also gives the top-six an easier time, with the opposition’s defence needing to cover more time. On the back-end, the Penguins have their superstar, Kris Letang, as well as two exciting youngsters who come with great offensive instincts. Both of whom have the potential to score 40 points a year. However, it may be a tough year for David Perron, Pascal Dupuis, and Rob Scuderi. For Perron, he may struggle to find a consistent role on the team. Meanwhile, the age of Dupuis and Scuderi begins to take its toll on their play.
Disagree with any player’s prediction? Let us know your opinion in the comments below!
For any questions, comments, or concerns, you can contact Devin Slawson on Twitter @SlawsonTHW.