All posts by Ryan Pawloski

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

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.

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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

Possible Penguins Targets During Free Agency

*All the comparisons used below were from ownthepuck.blogspot.com and I used their hero charts. I would check out this tool when you want to compare players.

Resign

Resigning players is always a top priority, especially after you win back to back cups.

But in this article, I will look at other options out in free agency that aren’t currently Penguins.

But I will put a quick mention in here for our players hitting the open market.

Jim Rutherford told our unrestricted free agents to go test the market and see what they can get and come back to check in with him. Most of these players will have some high demand coming off back to back cups and provide huge experience to teams.

Someone like Nick Bonino is the biggest free agent for the team to bring back.He will be offered a lot of money in free agency by other teams.

Hopefully, something can be worked out and he will be back. Another player that will probably generate a lot of interest is Chris Kunitz.

He provides great leadership and experience to a young team. It’s very possible that a team overpaying him to entice him out of Pittsburgh. But I do feel confident he will be back after he told reports during lockeroom clean out day that “it’s not just about the money”. So I expect him back on a cheap deal for maybe a handful of years.

Free Agent Targets

Now these can be summarized as guesses but these UFA’s would be great assets for the Pens. They are not listed in any order of importance but again are listed because they could bring something to Pittsburgh next season. 

Martin Hanzal, Center


Martin Hanzal is an interesting player.

He has some great size to him at 6’6″, 226 lbs. He produces points well.

When compared to Bonino they are similar players. He produces more points then Bonino did during the regular season but only produced 1 point in 5 playoff games this season.

I was interested in him during the trade deadline but he is a good plan B if Bonino doesn’t resign. The only issue I can see with him is the interest. A lot of teams will come calling and could price him out of Pittsburgh.

Brian Boyle, Center


Brian Boyle is an intriguing choice.

He brings size and physicality with his game, something Rutherford did say he wanted more of going into next season.

But when comparing him to Bonino, he isn’t putting up nearly as good of numbers.

Bonino beats him in almost every category.

I know stats aren’t everything as he also helps in a leadership role and performs well in the playoffs. And I also know Bonino isn’t the end-all-be-all but I’m using him as a comparison to these centers because these could be his replacements if we would lose him.

Boyle would be a great 4th line opt-in but a decent 3rd line option bringing some more grit to the pens.

Could you imagine a line of Scott Wilson, Ryan Reaves, and Brian Boyle? Physical and demanding on the forecheck. What a nightmare that would be for opposing teams. 

Joe Thorton, Center


The big name signing.

I know, I know he’s old and washed up and wants to much.

But hold on a second. He is old and on the decline or at least we believe so. He was playing through injuries for a while this past season and thus caused his numbers to drop a lot.

He is rumored to want 3 years at $5 million per season. That’s crazy money in my mind.

If he wants a chance at winning the cup then he will take a discount.

If the Pens could convince him to come here for a 2 year deal at a cheaper discount deal then I think he considers it.

He brings size, experience, leadership, and a physical game. When compared to Bonino last year, he destroys him in every category except even strength goals. So he might not score individual goals but he sets up a ton of plays.

Sam Gagner, Winger


Sam Gagner would be a great add and wouldn’t be as expensive as other free agents.

You would steal him from a division rival and add a good depth player who can play great on the 3rd line but could step into the 2nd line wing if or when injuries occur.

He put up solid numbers and could be a good replacement if Kunitz was lost to another team.

Kyle Quincey, Defensman


Kyle Quincey would provide great defense to this team.

If players like Ron Hainsey, Trevor Daley, and Mark Streit go, then the Penguins have to replace them.

Quincey checks out as a 2nd pair defenseman and a bottom pair on a bad season. He shouldn’t cost too much which is good news for the Pens.

With Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz needing new deals, you may have limited room. Daley likely will leave for another team but I think Quincey could be a good option here.

Cody Franson, Defensman


Cody Franson checks out as a 2nd pairing defenseman.

He hasn’t played much ice time so far in his career but could add something to the Penguins.

Other than the fact that he is a good defenseman, he creates shots and can block shots as well.

I believe with a fresh start with a new team he could find his game more. He could come at a cheaper deal to prove himself to an organization who could get him on a bargain. That could be something the Pens are looking for.

Goalies

Your guess is as good as mine. Goalie isn’t a huge priority in my mind. You have Tristan Jarry to backup Matt Murray.

I feel confident enough in Jarry to not sign a free agent and go into the year with that tandem. It saves some money and allows jarry to grow his game.

But we shall see what happens comes July 1st. 

Review 

When it comes to these names they are just guesses.

But the closer we look to last year’s Pens, the better in my mind. The hope is that the team can resign a lot of it’s own players instead of having to sign outsiders. It’ll be interesting to see what Rutherfords plan is on Saturday July 1st. Enjoy the frenzy everyone.


Offseason Player Grades: Conor Sheary

Statistics (Regular Season)

61 GP, 23 G, 30 A, 53 PTS, +24 +/-, 22 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

22 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, -5 +/-, 4 PIM

Grade: B-

Conor Sheary really helped out this team midway through the season while playing with Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. The Sid and the Kids line really produced and lead the team as the best line in the league. But as for any player, there are ups and downs to a long season. Sheary exemplified the struggles and triumphs of a long season.

Sheary is an interesting player. Throughout this year, he reached amazing highs and amazing lows. He overpreformed for the first half the year and racked up big time points playing with Crosby and Guentzel. But he hit towards the end of the regular season, which carried into the playoffs. He even got benched during the postseason and had to wait until he got another opportunity to crack the lineup. As anyone else in the organization, Sheary persevered and helped the Pens get another ring. He scored twice during the finals and seemed to be coming back to the player we know he can be. Which is a puck battler in the corners and a great passer.

Preview

Next season should be a great one for Sheary. If you consider how much he slowed down after the first part of the season, it was amazing to see the points he was racking up. If he can play like that for 82 plus games then he will be 60 plus point player at least and potentially a 30 goal scorer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Sheary is a big part of Crosby’s game. He is exactly the type of winger Crosby can play with. He’s guy that will do the dirty work in the corners like winning the puck battles. He is someone that can help make plays. I expect another good season and a more complete game for this young player.


Offseason Player Grades: Matt Murray 

Statistics (Regular Season)

49 GP, 32-10-4, 2.41 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO

Statistics (Playoffs)

11 GP, 7-3, 1.70 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO

Grade: A+

There’s not much you can complain about when it comes to Matt Murray. He has broken records and overcome adversity. He responds to negatives with huge positives. He shut the door on Nashville in the final 2 games to help win back to back cups.

Murray, time and time again, shows us how calm he is in the net. Just look at the Stanley Cup Finals alone. He stole games 1 and 2 for us at home. Then he gets a bit rattled in games 3 and 4. But then he responds by shutting Nashville out in games 5 and 6. He is an amazing goaltender that has shown many flashes of greatness in his young career.

Preview

Murray will be carrying the load for the Penguins again next year. He is already a legendary figure in Pittsburgh hockey. He will continue to grow his legacy as a Penguin and his own greatness. I don’t see Murray declining anytime soon as he is on the up and up. Pittsburgh was very lucky to have two amazing starting goaltenders for two straight Stanley Cup runs. Matt Murray was one of them and therefore a huge reason the Pens repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Conclusion

Matt Murray is the Pens goaltender going forward as he should be. He has constantly shown his resilience and ability to be one of the greatest goalies to play the game. He plays calm cool and collected and for that reason fans should be excited. AS long and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and Murray are here, then expect a chance at winning the cup each year.