All posts by Ryan

Ive loved pittsburgh sports from the 1st day and will till my last day. Current PSU student for sports journalism

Sheahan Better Option Than Cullen?

RileySheahan definitely is no Sidney Crosby or a solid 3rd liner but he’s improving. He would be a viable option at 4th line center for the Pens after they gain a solid 3rd line center as he’s been playing solid hockey for the Pens of late.

But when compared to Matt Cullen he is having a better season. Sheahan has 6 points in 25 games and Cullen has 5 in 24 games. So points are about the same but faceoff percentage is up. Sheahan boasts a 54.38% in the face off circle compared to Cullen’s 50.4%.

The largest desperation between the two is +/-. Sheahan has a +2 and Cullen has a -9. That is huge for the teams success. They both add some solid penalty kill abilities and Sheahan costs more but he has a bigger upside with his younger age and speed.

Sheahan will be a great role player for this team like Cullen was as soon as the 3rd line center situation is resolved. Like Cullen, he isn’t a 3rd line center and shouldn’t be expected as one. But he will be a great player for the playoffs especially with his faceoff ability.

So the hype on Sheahan will never be too high but the role he will play on this team will be about the same as Cullen’s was. Minus the “dad” presence that Cullen brought with him. But the Pens will be in good hands at 4th line center as soon as they get that 3rd center to solidify this team.

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Pens Right Where They Want To Be

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a concern right now when it comes to their play but looking back to previous years they are on track for another great run.

There are several things to support this thought. One is just looking back at the standings and stats of the team and players. The standings are basically the same as last year and close to the 2015-2016 start.

When you look at the numbers up to the games played up to this point they are extremely similar. In the 2015-2016 season the Pens had 28 points through November which isn’t a impressive number at all and was the lowest in the three seasons thus far.

The 2016-2017 season had some more success but still only finished November with 29 points. It is only 1 point more then their previous year in which they won the cup.

Now moving onto this season where they haven’t finished November entirely when writing this article. But as of today they have 25 points but assuming that they win another game or so then that number goes to 27 points. So even though it might not seem that the Pens are in a great situation don’t forget that they’ve been here before. And in those situations they’ve won back to back cups.

Free Hotdogs For Everyone

Phil Kessel is producing at one of his best paces since he’s become a Penguin. 

Kessel has been huge when it comes to the Pens winning games. He has provided huge upside with his play making ability. He still can fire the puck but his strength seems to be his play making ability so far.

Kessel has 15 points in the first 14 games of the season and 3 of those helped the Pens win 3 overtime games. He got in and stopped and pass which lead to a Malkin overtime goal and got two game winners himself this year.

He seems like a different player when you watch him this year. He is actually getting in on pucks and putting pressure in defensively. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now and for Pens fans that should be exciting.

Kessel still carries a +/- rating of -1 but with how the team has played recently, that’s not so bad. He is focused and tuned in for the rest of the season.

Maybe it’s the magic of his long hair and receding hairline. All we know is everyone loves Phil Kessel and his 2 Stanley cup rings!

Center Of Attention

Greg McKegg has been reliable thus far for the Penguins. He provides skating ability and the coveted ability to kill penalties.

Known as Kegger, McKegg hasn’t been a weakness to the team. He has focused on his game and has provided impact in games. He has provided some offense with three points in seven games compared to last year’s 3rd line center Nick Bonino who only has 1 point in 5 games. Also, McKegg has a 50% face off win percentage compared to Bonino’s 47%.

He’s off to a great start and hopefully he can keep his production up throughout the year. Although he’s been a good center thus far for the team, the team needs to find a better player to replace him in that role. 

Don’t get me wrong McKegg is a solid player with upside to his game but he can’t be the 3rd line center all year and into the playoffs. However, I do believe that he would be an asset to the 4th line center role. If he can continue his face off percentage and be a solid penalty killer, he will be in a Pens uniform.

If a trade happens for a 3rd line center, Carter Rowney will move to the wing and now the Penguins would have a solid 4th line that provides great penalty killing ability. All while it will add scoring depth to the lineup. This all depends on if McKegg can keep his production up throughout the season, which is possible. 

So watch closely to McKegg and his development this season because if he keeps playing well then expect to hear his name throughout the season and through the playoff race. He could be a huge role player for this team when it matters most.

Metropolitan Division Preview: New Jersey Devils

Coach- John Hynes

2016-2017 record: 28-40-14 (70 points), finished last in the division

Key Additions

  • Nico Hischier (1st overall pick)
  • Brian Boyle (Signed)
  • Marcus Johanson (Trade)
  • Will Butcher (Signed)

Key Subtractions

  • Beau Bennett (Free Agency)
  • Michael Cammalleri (Buyout)
  • Jon Merril (Expansion Draft)

Preview

After last season the rebuilding Devils are hoping to be this years Maple Leafs. The future is bright in New Jersey and hopefully that is sooner rather then later if your a Devils fan.

They have stars like Taylor Hall, Corey Schneider, Marcus Johanson, and now Nico Hischier. Hischier seems to be a lock for the lineup. He won’t be like the past number 1 overall picks in pay wise. But he should post good numbers. He should help this lineup at 1st or second line center.

On defense, they don’t have a huge name or star defender. They get the job done as a unit when they’re winning. But depth here is still a question mark. As is a true top tier defender on this club. But maybe if Butcher pans out he will be their answer to that question.

This is a very young and upcoming team. But with a good young coach in John Hynes behind the bench and GM Ray Shero leading this team, it should grow into a solid playoff contender. The metro is full of talent and competitive teams that might make the playoffs if they were in any other division. 

Predictions

The Devils are a young and upcoming team. They’re setting themselves up for a bright future. As Shero did for the Pens, he will make a great roster in the upcoming seasons for the Devils. They will compete again next year and should win some more games after the acquisitions of Hischier, Butcher, and Johansson. Pair the new guys with Hall, Zajac, and Henrique. 

I expect them to get around 80 points this season and finish around the middle of the pack. They are on the rise but the defense is a huge concern. I expect Schnieder to rebound from his poor season last year. But that defense just isn’t good enough. When Ben Lovejoy is in your top 4 pairing you have some problems. 

As for player predictions and stats, those are tough to predict. But hey I’ll give it a go, I mean it’s a guestimation right? Well predictions for the stars at least.

Taylor Hall: 31 goals, 35 assists, 66 points

Expect a big year from Hall with a legit center coming in. He will get alot of good looks this season. And I believe he will be the best goal scorer on their team.

Marcus Johansson: 16 goals, 28 assists, 44 points

His numbers should drop since he’s coming from a offensive powerhouse to a less talented team. He will be a great addition and help the young guys.

Nico Hischier: 26 goals, 37 assists, 60 points

He will put up good numbers while playing with Hall. But I don’t expect McDavid like numbers from him. He will have a solid rookie season and grow into his game as the season goes on.

Will Butcher: 11 goals, 23 assists, 34 points

Butcher will make an immediate impact for the Devils. I expect him to eventually be a top pair Defenseman for them this season. But he will put up solid numbers with his good skating abilities.

Corey Schnieder: 2.80 GAA, .915 SV%, 4 SO

Well those are my predictions and your preview for New Jersey. The bottom line for them is if their goaltending goes back to normal and defense steps up then they’ll push for the playoffs. But either way they’re still an upcoming team that can only go up from here. The Metro is stacked and full of talent. So it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be where at the end of the year.

Unknown Olympians 

As we get closer and closer to February, that means we get closer to Olympic hockey. There’s always a story and something different about this hockey style. Players are all motivated and proud to represent their county and are all focused on getting that gold medal. But who will be representing their country this Olympics? And who isn’t allowed to participate? Well we will break that down here. Here are the stipulations and potential players for team USA. Why USA you might ask, well because they’re the best country in the world!

Who’s Not Going

That’s the question everyone is asking. I know it’s confusing this year since players under any sort of NHL contracts can’t play. This includes any NHL players on 1 way deals or two way AHL deals. Some thought that top AHL players from last year would be able to help team USA but the NHL  said yesterday that they were not allowed either. These rules obviously apply to every country and if they have players in the NHL.

Who’s Eligible To Go

Well now this is where it gets interesting and seems a littlle unfair. We could be seeing another miracle on ice scenario. The Russians will still have an amazing team by taking players from the KHL. Some players include Pavel Datsyuk, Andrei Markov, Ilya Kovalchuk, and possibly Alexander Ovechkin. That’s a really good team on paper and will be much better then the young players they’ll be opposing. So they will have a great chance to win it all. But onto the team that matters, team USA.

Team USA will again be a underdog coming into this Olympics like they were during the miracle on ice. Team USA hasn’t gotten a medal for a couple Olympics but still even though the competition is less, there will be tough competition. Other countries will be able to pull from the European leagues and the Canadians are always talented no matter their age. But Team USA will have to gain talent from players overseas and college players. Or maybe even free agents. All the players are not near NHL caliber level players now or some are to old or never had enough skill to make it. But I looked at some players that could possibly make it but it’s tough go find with most recent stipulations.

Forwards

Mark Arcabello (Europe)

Brian Gionta (Free Agent)

Colin White (Potential NCAA)

Clayton Keller (Potential NCAA)

Luke Cunin (Potential NCAA)

Anders Bjork (Potential NCAA)

Defenseman 

Matt Gilroy (Hobey Baker Award Winner)

Brock Boeser (Potential NCAA)

Sam Lofquist (Potential NCAA)

Goalies

Ryan Zapolski: .923 SV% (KHL)

Kyle Hayton: .934 SV% (St. Lawrence University)

Those are just some of the names linked to Team USA. It’s still confusing on the stipulations and whether or not younger players will make their NHL club or return to school. If those college stars listed above return to college then it’ll be very interesting. Team USA will be able to compete for a medal as they usually are. This Olympics will be like no other because of the younger talent on these rosters and also the situation with the Russians playing with NHL players on their roster again. The gold medal game could be a ‘David vs Goliath’ situation again. Team USA will play in a European tournament in the middle of November and that roster should be very telling for us. Either way it’ll be interesting to see how this team is constructed and the play style they’ll have.

The Future Is Now

The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to get noticed when it comes to developing their talent. They’ve found ways to make mid to late round picks being huge contributors. Players like Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, etc. All of those players have had huge influences on this club. They provide speed and reliable minutes. But this article is about breaking down the Pens prospects not old ones (not that old still). But the rules for this breakdown are players 23 and under and are in no particular order.

Jake GuentzelForward

I know he just made a historic run in the playoffs and seems to be on track to be a superstar, but at 22 he is still very much in development. In my eyes, he can only get better and grow his game from here. He fits the Penguins’ scheme extremely well in that he plays fast and can chip bodies. He is such a great winger for Sidney Crosby and as they continue to play together, I expect Guentzel to raise his game even more.

Matt Murray, Goaltender 

Believe it or not Murray is still a work in progress. Eventually, he is going to be one of the youngest and most successful goaltenders of all time. He can still develop more. He has already won 2 Stanley Cups as a rookie and has some of the best numbers in the league. If he improves even more it’ll be something to see. I expect Murray to always be on the rise and have the ability to rebound from bad games. It’ll be exciting to watch Murray grow from stellar to interstellar (i know cringey saying). 

Daniel Sprong, Forward

This kid is only 20 years old and has me extremely excited. He scored a ton of points. Not only is he a goal scorer but a playmaker as well. He fits extremely well in our speed system because of his game. They call him the flying Dutchman which would be a great t-shirt when he’s a regular in a Pens uniform. He will be pushing for a roster spot this fall and could crack the roster. I can see him like Guentzel last year as a mid season call up. Or even after some injuries, which you know will happen to the Pens during the season. But he has to stay on the ice and somehow stay away from the injury bug he keeps getting. SOMEONE BUY HIM A FLY SWATTER! But on a serious note don’t be surprised if he plays a big role on the Pens next season (unless he’s traded).

Tristan Jarry, Goaltender 

Remember when Jarry was the goaltender of the future and Murray was gonna be the future backup. But Jarry could become a 1A to Murray if he continues to develop. He’s only 22 and has had only 1 game in the NHL. He will play most if not all of his games in the AHL and hopefully he will continue to grow. He bounced back with great numbers last year instead of his rookie year numbers in the AHL. If he continues where he left off last year then he will be the backup for Murray next year.

Zack Aston-Reese, Forward

Again, a star player coming out of college. The Pens are extremely successful with developing college players and making them extremely productive. He is physical and fast. He is compared to Patric Hornqvist. If he is close to Hornqvist then he is a steal and at 22 he is already gonna challenge for a spot on the NHL roster. If he can continue to develop into what he’s becoming then he will become an obvious NHL caliber player.

There are a ton of other notable Pens prospects that can develop into NHL players. I wanted to show the top prospects as of today and how they’re coming along. So enjoy and watch these future players that you’ll watch in a Pens jersey (again if they’re not traded). 

Also I started my own blog if you’d like to check that out. I’ll talk about Pens, Steelers, and Pirates basically change during the seasons. Please consider checking it out as i will be posting a lot of content on there as well as continuing on LTP (Lets Talk Pens). 

Here’s the link: https://pittsport.wordpress.com