Tag Archives: Derrick Pouliot

Odd Men Out

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a log-jam on defense. As of July 26, just over two months until the 2017-2018 season begins, the Penguins currently have 9 defensemen that could possibly make the roster come October. This begs the question, which defensemen will be left off the team and which will be the odd men out?

The Keepers

To me, there are four defensemen that are absolute locks to be here and playing at the start of the season; Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Ian Cole. Leaving Olli Maatta off this list is somewhat controversial sure but we’ll get to him later. Besides Maatta, this leaves Frank Corrado, Matt Hunwick, Chad Ruhwedel, and Derrick Pouliot all fighting for the remaining three spots.

The Unlikely

It would seem as though that the struggling Corrado and journeyman Chad Ruhwedel are destined to start in the AHL next season. Despite General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s high praise for Ruhwedel at the beginning of free agency, it seems as though the signing of Matt Hunwick has made him more of a depth defensemen than a top 6 guy. Hunwick is known to struggle, though, and has been driving Toronto fans nuts for years; so if he does start to flounder, or the inevitable injury to a defensemen happens, expect Ruhwedel to be the first guy up. Corrado on the other hand…well, who really knows. It seems as if he’s been forgotten over the past few months as free agency continues. Unless he stuns the coaching staff and GM in the preseason, Corrado will probably be heading to Wilkes-Barre for a majority of the season.

Three Men, Two Spots

This leaves us with Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Hunwick, all fighting for the two spots that remain. As I’ve said about Hunwick, I do expect to see him on opening night, that may be in the press box or on the ice, but I just think that Rutherford would not give a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.25 million to someone just to be banished to the minors. Now, if Olli Maatta is still a Penguin by October, then there is absolutely no doubt that he will be starting. Maatta’s game went from amazing to disastrous after a slew of injuries stunted his development. Maatta’s mistakes stand out due to his lack of speed. However, when he’s not getting burned, he is still an outstanding defensemen. Maatta really has transformed his game to become a more complete NHL defensemen since his rookie season, but his speed is still something that plagues him. I personally do not want the Penguins to trade Olli Maatta. He is a great defensemen with a bright future ahead of him. That being said, when looking at the void at third line center and the excess that the Pens have on D…if Rutherford wanted to make a splash and trade for a big name, (which he does not have to), Maatta would almost have to be going the other way.  Finally there is the never-ending conundrum that is Derrick Pouliot. The Pen’s best defensive prospect has struggled ever since he stunned Pittsburgh by scoring his first goal on his first shot. Reported attitude problems and losing the ability to quickly move the puck seemingly overnight have made Pouliot spend a majority of his career in the AHL, despite his overwhelming potential. However, in an interview with The Trib, Rutherford said, “Pouliot finished the season real strong.  We feel he’s going to come in and play,” However, if the Pens were to keep Maatta, then the top 6 would include Letang, Schultz, Dumoulin, Maatta, Cole, and Hunwick. I don’t see where Pouliot fits in. I think the kid deserves a shot and also think that he is probably better than Matt Hunwick is, but again Hunwick’s contract makes it hard for me to think that he’ll be sitting many games. To be quite frank, I do not know what the Pens will do with Pouliot if this same roster is intact. Maybe he’s traded, maybe he spends time at practice and in the press box, maybe he takes Hunwick’s spot, or maybe he’s forced to spend yet another season in Wilkes-Barre.

Only time can tell what will happen to the Penguins Defense come October. No matter what does happen, a healthy Kris Letang makes the Pens defense one to reckon with next year.

Derrick Pouliot Should Get A Chance

Reading this title may have given many of you a few aneurisms. By now, the Penguins have given defenseman Derrick Pouliot ample chance to prove himself at the NHL level, right? To be quite honest, I don’t think he’s been given ample chances.

Sure, he’s been up and down from the AHL to the NHL and back again multiple times. It seems that anytime Pouliot makes one mistake, it’s magnified and he’s immeadiately benched or sent down. With a young, steadily developing “prospect”, if you will, the worst thing to do is mess with any potential confidence he has.

The Pittsburgh Pirates faced a similar situation early in their season.

Top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, was given the opportunity to be in the Opening Day rotation. His struggles with his control issues were a well-known fact going into the year. Despite a few rough starts, Glasnow began to find himself a bit. He then tailed off and was sent back to the minor leagues. The Penguins need to attempt a similar approach.

Pouliot has served his time in the AHL and has looked good doing it. Although his NHL transition seems to be rough at times, how is he going to get any better continuously being sent up and down?

Thus brings me to my argument: Derrick Pouliot should be in the lineup on Opening Night next year.

Pouliot isn’t going to get better at the NHL level without playing there. Mike Sullivan needs to guarantee Pouliot a spot in the top six to open the year so Pouliot can readily focus on what he needs to do to be a quality and serviceable player. Sullivan has yet to make any player around him worse so Sullivan’s guidance can only help Pouliot.

His struggles to play defense at times can be overcome by the offensive capabilities that Pouliot brings to the table. That’s something that can’t be overlooked.

He scored on his first NHL shot against the Florida Panthers in 2014. He can really skate with the puck and has puck moving abilities that the Penguins sorely could use.

The Penguins used the eighth overall pick on him in 2012. They expect a lot out of him and they can get it if they actually decide to play him.

The Penguins are likely going to need one defenseman when the season begins. It’s safe to assume that Trevor Daley‘s best days might be behind him and that the Penguins will allow him to walk on July 1st. With guys like Nick Bonino, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz needing contracts, the Penguins will have an in-house defensive option or two if they’d like to let Daley go elsewhere.

That would leave the likely pairings to be as follows heading into the season:

Dumoulin-Letang

Cole-Schultz

Maatta-Pouliot

The obvious chemistry of the top four defensemen can’t be understated. The Maatta-Pouliot pairing may look scary, but it’s got the potential to be very effective.

The only way to really grow Pouliot’s game is to let him work out his kinks at the NHL level under Sullivan and defensive coach Sergei Gonchar‘s guidance. He’s shown flashes of being an offensive juggernaut and could really be a great boost to the second power play if in fact Daley signs with another team.

Unless the Penguins go out and sign somebody, your other in-house options include Chad Ruhwedel, Cameron Gaunce, or Frankie Corrado. They’re all perennial seventh defenseman that you can find on the free agency wire. Pouliot is a former first round draft choice with the potential to be just that. He should be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Night roster next year. I don’t think there is much of a question about that.

The question is, how much of a chance will Sullivan give him and how does he respond?

Crunch Time For Derrick Pouliot

It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot.

After an injury to star defenseman Kris Letang, the Penguins recalled Pouliot to be the next defenseman up. With Steven Oleksy the current seventh guy on the roster it’s quite likely they could use Oleksy as opposed to Pouliot. The Penguins have wanted a chance for Pouliot to play for a while and this may be it.

Pouliot hasn’t had the easiest transition to the NHL over the past couple of seasons. Through 57 career NHL games, he’s garnered only 2 goals and 12 assists for a grand total of 14 points. This production has been highly frowned upon inside and outside of the organization. His defensive play has never been held in high regard when he matches opposing players forwards.

The troubling part is that most of his career NHL time has come on the third pairing meaning quite a lot of his matchups have been team’s bottom six players. He’s still showing signs of not being a steady top-6 guy.

He’s had a pretty rough time down in the minor leagues as well. He’s had some horrific numbers (0 points and -4 in seven games) but general manager Jim Rutherford says that it doesn’t quite tell the story.

“He wasn’t necessarily there to see how many points he could put up. He was fine.” Rutherford told Dejan Kovacevic.

Sullivan won’t be forced to place Pouliot into the lineup but it’s likely he will be the one inserted in over defenseman Steven Oleksy.

Truth be told, this could be DP51’s final chance to impress the coaching staff and receive more playing time. If Letang sits out through the Penguins’ bye week, it will be a potential eight game stretch that Letang will miss. This would give Pouliot the opportunity to slot in and show his talents. He could very well be on his way out the door if his play isn’t what the team would’ve hoped.

Look for Pouliot to play his best hockey over the next few weeks as he may have to if he wants to stay with Pittsburgh.

Steady As They Go

One guy that will never get one ounce of recognition because of the role he plays is defenseman David Warsofsky.

Warsofsky is a very sound defenseman that the Penguins are lucky to have as a seventh defenseman type of guy. In his fortune, he’s got a chance to stick around for a while.

After the injury to Derrick Pouliot, Warsofsky seems to figure as the team’s depth seventh defenseman going forward. He’s getting playing time right now with the injury to Kris Letang.

The Penguins are blessed to have eight NHL ready defenseman on their roster. Warsofsky is that eighth man and is ready at anytime.

He was actually playing good hockey until a freak concussion last year when referee Tim Peel lost an edge and tripped a backwards skating Warsofsky. It was an unfortunate injury to an already depleted D-corps.

Warsofsky’s been a steady defenseman who’s had the approval of Mike Sullivan since Sullivan took over at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the beginning of last season. He’s highly endorsed by his teammates who are happy he’s getting the opportunity to step in and stay around awhile.

Whether he’s the seventh defenseman or getting some starting playing time at the NHL level, Warsofsky is just glad to have gotten the call.

“I’m just glad to be here,” Warsofsky was quoted saying to reporters the other day. “It’s nice to be the one to have your name called after all the hard work that you put in.”

Warsofsky should be in the lineup Tuesday night and for the foreseeable future until Kris Letang returns from injury.

Pride, Passion, Pittsburgh…Penguins?

For those of you who love Pittsburgh’s baseball team, I apologize. This phrase doesn’t really apply to your team anymore. This really applies to Pittsburgh’s hockey team. The one at the ‘Paint Can’ on 1001 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh.

In a game where all hope seemed further than than the distance between California and Pennsylvania, a few players poked there heads out and did some big things when their team needed them the most.

Scott Wilson took a puck that bounced away from a hit in the corner and scored. It looks as though Chris Kunitz may have pushed home a shot that rang off the post. The hitter and shooter off the post happened to be Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist just had one of his patented games tonight. He actually dumped the puck in on the play where he hit Brendan Dillon in the corner and then forced Braun to turn it over right onto Wilson’s stick for a goal. He pounced on a rebound with his net front presence and banged it off the post. He was given credit for the goal but upon second look, Kunitz may have finished it into the net.

Horny was in front of the net making Martin Jones’ night as hard as he possibly could. When Jones had a puck slide under his pad in the third, Hornqvist went in hit and shoved and shoved hoping he’d lodge the puck over the goal line. It didnt work, but he showed the heart and hustle. That’s what Patric Hornqvist does. That’s what Patric Hornqvist brings. Tenacity.

That’s just one man. There are four guys who deserve the spotlight tonight.

“No pressure.”

Those were the words uttered by Mike Sullivan to the four defenseman on the Pens roster for the night who were healthy enough to go back out for the third period. Those four defenseman include: Brian Dumoulin, Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, and Justin Schultz.

With Kris Letang already out for tonight, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, playing in his first game since only playing 34 games last season, both went down with injury. This left the four aforementioned names to be left out to die in the third.

Except, the Penguins turned a two goal second period deficit into a 3-2 victory. This happened with FOUR defenseman. Incredible stuff.

Run it by me and I’ll tell you that’s some pride. That’s some passion. Without Letang and captain Sidney Crosby, the Penguins lead an impressive comeback on the Sharks further proving that their victory last year was just that. A simple, overmatching victory.

The Sharks peppered Marc-Andre Fleury with 34 shots tonight. He only cracked on two occasions. Martin Jones was very stellar and then an inspired third period happened. The Pittsburgh hockey team lit him up for three goals in that period.

“We can win them ugly,” Ian Cole said after the game to reporters around his stall. That you did, my friend.

So the next time the Pirates try to shove that “Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates.” slogan down your throat, just know that it’s really the Penguins who exemplify that.

Penguins Preseason Q&A

Hello, Pens fans! We are back for the 2016-’17 season and it’s going to be a great title defense. Without further ado, here are your questions answered below:

I don’t think resting veterans is a terrible idea. Now if we are talking Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin level players, no.

Guys like Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen surely should get some days off to stay fresh. The Penguins are going to have a ton of depth this season and a lot of them will be young guys.

Guys like Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson, and potentially Oskar Sundqvist may be the ones who will have to rotate in and out of the lineup on a consistent basis due to everyone being healthy now. I’d love to see some of these guys mix in so I’m hoping there will be some rest for veteran guys. 

LW- Chris Kreider, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, James van Riemsdyk

C- Tyler Johnson, Nick Bjugstad, Paul Stastny, Ryan Kesler, Derek Stepan

RW- Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler, Joe Pavelski

D- Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter

G- Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Corey Schneider

The USA team was limited with the whole Team North America BS. Obviously, eligible players such as Kessel and Bishop were glaring options that were left untaken.

The Penguins actually have a better prospect system than the eye catches. Outside of Pittsburgh, hockey fans don’t realize the potential this group has.

In no specific order, I’d go: Daniel Sprong, Jake Guentzel, Tristan Jarry, Teddy Blueger, Ethan Prow.

As you’ll realize, I stayed with guys who have very little to no NHL experience.

Sprong has the potential to be a prolific scorer for years to come. He revived little playing time under Mike Johnston, which didn’t help his development so he went back to juniors for a season. He’ll likely begin his season in the AHL when he returns from injury.

Guentzel is a natural center but given the team’s depth down the middle and their intent to resign Nick Bonino, it’s likely that next year’s, and likely year’s to come after that, center core will be Crosby, Malkin, Bonino, and Sundqvist. So Sullivan has said Guentzel will be a left wing. It’s a position the Penguins may need to fill in upcoming seasons and Guentzel will be part of that audition.

It’s never a bad thing to have three NHL capable goaltenders, especially if two of them are still on entry level deals. The Penguins have that with Tristan Jarry. Jarry has always been projected to be a solid goalie and his preseason performance says no different. He’ll back up Flower to start the season, but what will become of that when Matt Murray gets back?

Blueger is a similar player to Guentzel but maybe a little less talented. Regardless, it’s still a great pick up for Pittsburgh. He’ll be a center though as well so he may need to add some versatility to his game if he wants to succeed with the Penguins or any NHL team.

Finally, we’ve come to Ethan Prow, who is actually the most intriguing in my opinion. Prow is a smaller player but has great offensive intangibles and a skill set. Prow can succeed despite his size if he can continue to refine his defense. The Penguins prized college free agent signing this offseason could be a Penguin sooner rather than later.

I’d also like to honorably mention Stuart Percy in this conversation. The Penguins signed him off of free agency this offseason when Toronto had decided he wasn’t worth a contract compared to their other contracted rookies. He’s a pretty sound defenseman already on both sides of the puck. Expect for him to see some NHL ice time this season if some injuries occur on the blue line. If the Penguins move on from Derrick Pouliot, I’d expect either Percy or Steven Oleksy to fill the seventh defenseman role.

For Matt Murray the sky is the limit. There won’t be a ton to improve upon for him besides a few kinks to work out in his game. I personally see Scott Wilson being the most improved.

He was great in his 24 games last year and he could see substantial playing time if he impresses his coaching staff, which I don’t see as a problem.

Wilson has the best finishing ability of all of these players and won’t go forgotten in Mike Sullivan’s high pace-high scoring offensive scheme.

Personally I don’t think so. I think the Penguins want to experiment with Hagelin and potentially Kessel on Sid’s wing at some point when all are healthy.

I think they want to spread the lines out a little and see if they can’t find a combination that hits.

With that being said…

Come playoff time, you can bet your bottom dollar the ‘HBK’ Line will again emerge to give the Penguins the most lethal line in hockey.

This is a tougher question because the Pens are so deep that really only injuries are going to give someone a promotion.

My list of people we should for sure see in the NHL would be Oskar Sundqvist, Jake Guentzel, and Carter Rowney.

These three will likely be guaranteed some NHL time this season if an injury occurs. With Sid’s injury, it’s likely we’ll see Sundqvist take Sid’s roster spot down the middle.

Guentzel and Rowney fit the Penguins’ “long term plans” according to Mike Sullivan. But they’re an injury or two away from making their NHL debuts.

Defenseman Stuart Percy is one that I like. He probably won’t get NHL time because of the depth at defense and it’s likely David Warsofsky would get the call before Percy due to his seniority with the club.

I don’t think anyone is complaining about the jersey design. They’re absolutely gorgeous. I love them.

As for the Stadium Series jersey…

It’s tough to speculate. The Penguins obviously went with the modernized old-school 1990’s look with their new home and away’s. The blue uniforms could always return.

Being it’s the 50th anniversary, the Penguins will likely stay with the throwback theme instead of trying to create a brand-new jersey for the Stadium Series.

Opening Graphic done by @goodkdmaattacty

Impressions To Be Made

Rosters are almost trimmed down to the opening day size of 23. Excitement for the fringe players who will make it. Disappointment will hang over those that don’t.

It seems the Pens roster won’t be hard to decipher heading into the season, but there are some guys with something to prove.

Four Penguins on the roster stick out to me as either bubble guys who have a chance to impress or guys who can cement themselves as an NHL regular.

My first one (in no specific order)…

1.) LW, Chris Kunitz


It’s quite obvious if you check my twitter feed from last season that Chris Kunitz does not rank amongst my favorite Penguins’ players. I don’t know why, but I can’t stand the guy. Did he have an alright season last year given the circumstances? Yes, he did.

The body banging Kunitz will give it a go this season. Quoted saying he feels better than he has for any season in recent memory, he’ll look to keep his body churning through an 82-game schedule (plus the hopefully guaranteed playoffs) without much more than the bumps and bruises that come along with his style of hockey.

The 37 year old will be the likely candidate to start the season with the same man he’s flanked for years, the one and only Sidney Crosby. It’s also very likely that he won’t be pried from that line unless things go completely awry. Crosby is too familiar with him and likes him way too much for the coaching staff to break that up.

Entering the final year of his contract in which he will make close to $4 million dollars this season, Kunitz plans on continuing to play beyond this season. Whether the Penguins give him a short term deal with much less money will be determined with time.

One would assume Kunitz will be on a mission to make sure his team can be a contender for another Cup. The biggest question is what does he have left in the tank to help get the Penguins there?

2.) LW, Scott Wilson


The second name on this list is the most intriguing to me.

Scott Wilson proved last season that he can finish. He’s quite possibly the best finisher out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton wave of players from last season. He’s a pure goal scorer and a possible eventual replacement for Kunitz on the Crosby line due to his finishing ability.

Wilson had a very promising beginning to his career. So much so that he signed a two year contract extension alongside Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust last season. Unfortunately, injuries shortened his season to just 24 games.

He scored five goals in that span but did a ton to prove he’s got the ability to bury some goals in the back of the opposition’s net and that’s something that’s always coveted by general manager’s and coaches.

There’s not much doubt that Wilson makes the opening day roster. It’s likely he’ll have to wrestle playing time away from other winger options but if he gets to plant himself into the lineup on a nightly basis, the coaching staff shouldn’t regret confiding in him.

3.) D, Derrick Pouliot


It’s pretty hard to disagree that Derrick Pouliot might have more to prove than anyone in the entire Penguins organization.

It’s going to be hard enough to find playing after the Penguins brought back almost their entire D-core. The loss of Ben Lovejoy moves Pouliot up a spot on the depth chart to the seventh defenseman.

Pouliot has vastly disappointed the expectations set for him years ago and continues to struggle in this season’s training camp. Head coach Mike Sullivan expects Pouliot to stand out amongst his AHL competition but he just hasn’t done so.

He looks like an entirely different person this season and dedicated himself to getting into hockey shape. He needs to translate his skill to ice.

It’s almost as if he’s playing scared, which at this point seems pretty impossible to break. If Pouliot can let the game come to him, he can be an elite offensive talent. The defense still could use work, but the offensive talent potential he’s got isn’t teachable. He’s got to find a way to put it together if he wants a spot in Pittsburgh, or on any NHL roster, for that matter.

4.) G, Tristan Jarry


This is sort of a Wild Card play right here, but Tristan Jarry has done some incredible things this preseason.

With Matt Murray out for four-to-six weeks with a broken hand, the Penguins will turn to Tristan Jarry to handle backup duties behind Marc-Andre Fleury until Murray can return.

Jarry enjoyed a nice campaign in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season and is expected to do the same when Murray gets back.

It’s likely Jarry doesn’t get a start at the NHL level while Flower likely will get every start due to the impending goalie competition looming. If the coaching staff however does find an opportunity along the way for Jarry, it would be his first career regular season start.

Not that one singular start can determine the career of any NHL’er, but a solid season from Jarry in WBS could prompt the Penguins to call his name if perhaps a goaltender is traded at the trade deadline or before next season’s expansion draft.

Jarry was originally considered a better goalie than Murray until Murray’s AHL dominance jumped him ahead of Jarry. It’ll be interesting to see Jarry’s level of compete knowing he may be tasting consistent NHL action, albeit as a backup, within the near future.