Tag Archives: Jake Guentzel

Penguins Fantasy Hockey Predictions

Around this time of year, most people are focused on their upcoming fantasy football drafts and not too much so with hockey. I am here to help.

Instead of previewing the entire league, I will be noting some Penguins who I believe should be on your roster regardless of your league size. I will also be noting a few players who could deserve a look in bigger and more deep leagues.

The Inevitable…

Sidney Crosby, C

Whether he is the top pick or the second pick, behind Connor McDavid of course, Crosby will be owned in every single (competitive) fantasy league because he just is the best.

After winning the Rocket Richard last year as the league’s leading scorer, it’s reasonable to believe he can do it again as he is playing at the level we have always known Crosby to be. Maybe even better. It’s reasonable to think that he doesn’t put up 44 goals again but with Crosby, anything is possible.

Couple about 40 goals with 60+ assists and Crosby will help pitch in to win your fantasy league.

Projected Stats: 38 G, 65 A, 103 PTS, +21 +/-, 25 PIMs

Evgeni Malkin, C

In a league where Malkin is very underrated, it’s likely he will be on your draft board, too. A top 5 talent in the league, Malkin could be a second round pick depending on the size of your league.

Malkin was a huge reason the Penguins won the Cup last season and nothing drives him more than winning championships. Malkin, along with a few other teammates, have a chance to three-peat. If that isn’t enough to keep him motivated, I don’t know what is.

The only problem will be his durability.

He has missed some games over the past few seasons for some nagging injuries. This shouldn’t hinder your choice to take him. If he is available, even as high as pick number three, and you have an inclination to take him, don’t hesitate. Malkin is going to have a big year. I’ll say even enough to compete for the scoring title.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 68 A, 99 PTS, +14 +/-, 49 PIMs

Kris Letang, D

Yet another underrated player in the league, Letang will be returning from a major neck operation. And, yet again, if you need a cornerstone defenseman in the first four or five rounds, Letang should be available.

Letang’s neck injury could scare some away. I’d even say he may struggle to really find his game in the first month after being off the ice for over half a year. But, fantasy league’s aren’t won in month number one. They are won with long term investments.

In Mike Johnston‘s final tenure as the head coach of the team, Letang wasn’t being used properly and ultimately was almost useless in any fantasy format. Even with the worst of start of his career, it didn’t stop Letang from almost winning the scoring race amongst defensemen. He also scored the game winning game in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals that season.

Letang’s injury last season may slow him early. But he’ll be very much worth the long term investment come fantasy playoff time.

Projected Stats: 10 G, 55 A, 60 PTS, +20 +/-, 68 PIMs

Matt Murray, G

This is the one that may surprise some fans but this is the NEW face of the “Core Four”.

With Marc-Andre Fleury gone to Vegas, the Penguins have their undoubted goalie of the future and the now.

Murray has won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons. He will hunt a third. The only problem with Murray? His durability.

Murray has had a few freak and unlucky injuries over the past couple seasons. If a fantasy player values a franchise goaltender in the first few rounds then don’t overthink it and select Murray. He will win close to 40 games if he doesn’t miss time due to injury. He is the defined starter now and if those first two seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you’ll want Murray on your team.

Just make sure to draft a solid back option incase of another freak injury.

Projected Stats: 38 W, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO

Mid-Round Picks…

Patric Hornqvist, RW

Hornqvist is one of those guys that won’t be anywhere near a point per game player. He can reasonably put up 40-50 points.

Where Hornqvist gets his true value is in the categories leagues.

Hornqvist will likely be towards the top of your team in the hitting category. He takes a fair amount of shots and he likely will begin the season on Malkin’s wing.

Even if you aren’t in a categories league, Hornqvist is worth the look if you’re looking for mid-to-late round depth.

Projected Stats: 17 G, 31 A, 48 PTS, +7 +/-, 60 PIMs

Jake Guentzel, RW

Here is your golden ticket.

A lot of people watched Guentzel light up the NHL world in the playoffs. How many people will take this into consideration during the draft?

Guentzel is 98th according to ESPN’s rankings. In a 10 man league, this would make him a ninth or tenth rounder. That is a serious steal if he goes and does what he did last season. He’ll at least begin the season with Crosby.

Don’t overdraft him, though. He is almost guaranteed to be there into the seventh round of a ten man league. If you get paranoid and want him then, go ahead and take him. The later you take him, the smarter you’ll look.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +24 +/-, 16 PIMs

Conor Sheary, LW

The other wing on Crosby’s line, Sheary will also excel if he stays with Crosby. Buyer beware, though.

Every player goes through slumps, but the one Sheary suffered in last year was atrocious in the playoffs. The playoffs don’t matter in fantasy, but it’s proof that if Sheary slumps, it could get very ugly.

He is a solid player with upside but I wouldn’t consider him before round ten. If someone takes him before then, you can find value elsewhere in some other players around the league.

He’ll play with Crosby but it remains to be seen how long. Don’t overdraft him but if he’s there and legitimately the best available, don’t hesitate.

Projected Stats: 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS, 13 +/-, 31 PIMs

Sleepers…

Phil Kessel, RW

I know it’s odd to see Kessel’s name as a sleeper to some. But, a lot of people are down on him lately.

So depending on how you classify Kessel’s talent, he is a sleeper.

Kessel has played on the third line for the majority of his Penguins career but has found some guys he meshes well with. He could finally end up back with Malkin on a permanent basis.

Kessel will still be anywhere from a third to fifth rounder depending on league size so it’s tough to title him a sleeper. But there is a solid chance he could contend for a Rocket Richard. He is THAT much of a scorer. He just has to do it for a season to get fans to fully buy in again.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 50 A, 81 PTS, -1 +/-, 6 PIMs

Justin Schultz, D

Maybe this lengthy, lucrative contract will finally give Schultz the respect he’s earned throughout the league.

Schultz’s offensive rejuvenation in Pittsburgh’s system is something that went unnoticed last year as he was only added by many fantasy teams in the middle of the year. This year, he is a mid-round pick with early-round pick potential.

Again, he isn’t someone you should draft early especially if some other guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Duncan Keith remain available. But Schultz is a guy you shouldn’t let slip if you think he is one of the top three players you’ve got to choose from.

There is a good chance Schultz could put up 50 points. While I think he will fall short, he is a solid option and you wont be able to find him on waivers so take him if you can.

Projected Stats: 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, +19 +/-, 20 PIMs

Overview…

Just because a few guys were omitted from the list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth drafting. A lot of them could be waiver claims if you run into injuries. Or, even I it is late in the draft and you aren’t sure who to take, take them.

Regardless, just win the league. It’s all about bragging rights, correct?

P.S. The staff is going to have their own fantasy hockey league that we will keep you in touch with.

If you would like to be a part of the “LTP Community” league, DM me upon reading this and I will reserve your spot.

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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

Offseason Player Grades: Jake Guentzel

Statistics (Regular Season)

40 GP, 16 G, 17A, 33 PTS, +7 +/-, 10 PIM

Statistics (Playoffs)

25 GP, 13 G, 8 A, 21 PTS, +1 +/-, 10 PIM

Grade: A+

Jake Guentzel opened his NHL season mid-season against the New York Rangers.  Guentzel played alongside Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in the game and notched 2 goals, including one that came on his first NHL shot.  And he didn’t stop there.

Guentzel became a mainstay on Sidney Crosby‘s line towards the end of the season and was a main piece of the “Sid and the Kids” line that lit up the lamp late in the season.  Although he got cold in the playoffs for a while and even became a near scratch, Guentzel came just 1 goal shy of Dino Ciccarelli‘s record of 14 goals by a rookie in the postseason and tied his record 21 points.  Not too bad for a rookie.  Not to mention he recorded a hat trick while winning game 3 for the Penguins in OT against Columbus in the first round.

Preview

Based on the end of the regular season and late in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I would be very surprised to not see Guentzel with Crosby and Conor Sheary on the top line.  Guentzel has thrived while playing with Sid, and Sid seems to enjoy Guentzel’s finishing touch.  Throughout his young NHL career, if Guentzel keeps his goal-scoring touch up, he would be on pace for 36 goals in a full 82 game NHL season.  Although I’m sure his scoring touch will decline slightly and injuries will likely happen, I would not be at all surprised to see Guentzel score 25-30 goals next season.

Review

Guentzel had about as good of a season as he could have.  He became a mainstay on the top line, was a huge producer in the Penguins’ offensive output, and already has his name scratched into Lord Stanley’s Cup.  Everyone in this fanbase was, and still is, excited to see what Daniel Sprong can do, but my goodness how about Jake Guentzel.  He came out of almost nowhere and just played as if he was in the NHL for years.  I cannot wait to see what he can bring next year.

Conclusion

Jake Guentzel is one special player, and most importantly, he is very young.  He will continue to grow and continue to get better in the upcoming years.  He should play with Sid for the majority of the next few years, but who knows what will happen.  One thing I can say is that barring any major injuries, Guentzel could be a consistent 20+ goal scorer in this league.  He does not necessarily have an impressive release like Neal did with the Pens, but he just has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and has a sneaky quick shot.  Look for him to continue to do damage in the NHL.

Unsung Heroes

Overtime, Game 7; these are the games as hockey fans we love. Thursday night, the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-2 in double overtime to clinch their bid to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Nashville Predators. The game winning goal coming from 37-year-old Chris Kunitz, which was his second goal of the night. This entire playoff, and regular season has been filled with unsung heroes. Yes, we have the three-headed monster in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel leading the way in playoff points. But there are a few guys pulling some of their own weight. Names that stand out are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin.

 

Jake Guentzel- 2016-17 Regular Season– 40 GP | 16 G | 17 A       2016-17 Playoffs– 19 GP | 9 G | 7 A

What an amazing rookie campaign Jake has put together. Those who watched Jake play in WBS before being called up knew the type of impact he could have in the NHL, and what an impact he has made. Some may ask why he made this list of surprise players these playoffs, but I don’t think anyone expected a player with 40 NHL games to be in the top 5 of playoff scoring. Not to mention 3 GWG this postseason.

Image result for jake guentzel playoffs

Chris Kunitz- 2016-17 Regular Season- 71 GP | 9 G | 20 A |         2016-17 Playoffs- 14 GP| 2 G| 3 A |     

Chris Kunitz, what a guy. This is a player that Penguins fans have wanted to be dealt out of town for the last three years at least, and I am guilty of criticizing him as well. But with Kuntiz you know what type of player you are going to get. He’s the type of guy to battle in front of the net, finish his checks, and hey, even score goals when reunited with Crosby. Kuntiz has scored the most important goal of these playoffs so far (2OT ECF) so how could he not be a hero?

Image result for chris kunitz goal

Bryan Rust- 2016-17 Regular Season- 40 GP | 12 G | 4 A |            2016-17 Playoffs- 17 GP | 6 A | 1 A |

Rust is a player that really emerged last season when the Pens were faced with injuries and he made a similar impact that Guentzel is making this year. Rust is another guy that will finish his hit and grind in front of the net, but also comes up with some very timely goals. This post season, Rust has 2 GWG those goals being Game 5 vs CBJ, and game 7 vs Washington. Rust plays big in big games, so keep an eye out for him the Stanley Cup Finals.

Image result for bryan rust playoffs

Olli Maatta2016-17 Regular Season- 55 GP| 1 G | 6 A |              2016-17 Playoffs19 GP | 2 G | 5 A |

Maatta has been criticized time and time again, and granted he has not been the player the Penguins expected, he has held his own. Some unfortunate injuries have slowed Maatta’s growth, but minor things such as foot speed seem to be an issue for him. To Maatta’s credit he has played well this season, especially vs the Sens. Scoring two goals in as many games, and one being a GWG in the 7-0 victory, Maatta seems to be finding his way as of late.

 Image result for olli maatta 2017

Honorable Mention: Brian Dumoulin- Dumo gets my honorable mention for this list. Next to Ian Cole, he may be the best defensive defenseman the Pens have. Logging 20+ minutes in almost every playoff game, he is faced with the task of shutting down teams’ top offensive lines. He is a valuable player to this Pens roster that often goes under the radar.

Image result for brian dumoulin playoff

This Penguins team is filled with superstars as we all know, but there are a ton of depth/role players that are just as important as Crosby or Malkin are. Role players play a key part in winning teams, and the Penguins have built their team using high end role guys. They played a huge part in the 2016 Stanley Cup Run, and will again be a key factor in the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Series Analysis: Pens Top Caps in 7

Wow.  The Penguins did it again.

And should we even really be shocked any more?

On the 1 year anniversary of the Nick Bonino overtime winner against the Capitals last year in game 6, the Penguins once again beat their division rival to move on to the next round.  Although this time, it took 7 games.  Going into the game, many Penguins fans thought that the Caps were going to end it.  I knew that if any team was going to pull off this win, it would be the Penguins, but I really didn’t think they actually would.

Well until they did, of course.

Marc-Andre Fleury pitched a shutout, which adds to this story-book ending of the series, as the Penguins knock the Capitals out of the playoffs with a 2-0 win in Washington, and now hold a 9-1 lead in the series against the Caps.

Let’s make this clear: A Penguins’ team that was clearly concerned about losing Kris Letang for 1 game against the Capitals last year just took out the President’s Trophy winners without him.

And Matt Murray

And a banged up D-core…

Oh yeah, and they played almost 2 games without Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby!

Not to mention that this was a Capitals team that remained healthy all year, were healthy in the playoffs, dealt for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, and were once again the clear favorites to finally lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Until they ran into the Penguins.  Again.

The Penguins were outplayed for the majority of this series, but they found ways to win hockey games, 4 out of 7 to be exact, against an extremely talented hockey team.  So, how did the Penguins pull it off, despite blowing a 3-1 series lead and having to go back to Washington for a do-or-die game 7?  Here is my series analysis, which includes 5 main reasons as to why the Penguins were able to emerge victorious, once again:

Marc-Andre Fleury > Braden Holtby

The Capitals needed Braden Holtby to be…well…Braden Holtby if they were going to beat the Penguins in these 2017 playoffs.  In fact, they simply needed Holtby to be the better goaltender between him and Fleury.  Unfortunately, for the Capitals, this was not the case.

The Penguins generated some decent chances throughout the series, but not once outshot the Capitals in a single game.  Holtby did not have to stop a ton of pucks, so one would think that he would have had the edge over Fleury.

Well, he may have.  But the stats indicate otherwise.

Holtby had an abysmal .887 save percentage (17 goals on 151 shots), compared to his .925 save percentage in the regular season, good enough for the former Vezina winner to be yet another nominee to win the trophy for the 2016-17 year as the NHL’s top goaltender. However, it was the Penguins’ goaltender, Fleury, that looked like the Vezina Trophy nominee in this series.

Fleury kept his hot play from round 1 going into round 2, and put up a .921 save percentage (18 goals on 227 shots) in this series, including a shutout in game 7.   Although a .921 save percentage is quite good, I still do not think it even comes close to describing how well he played in this series and how many absolutely unbelievable stops he made.  One, in particular, comes to mind:

Without their top defenseman Letang, the Penguins will need him to continue to be their best player if they want a chance at moving on.  Fleury seems up to the task, as he holds a .927 save percentage in these playoffs.  If he can keep up these kind of stats behind a dangerous Penguins’ offense that leads the NHL in playoff scoring…they just might have a chance.

Penguins’ Stars > Capitals’ Stars

Simply put, throughout the series, the Penguins star players stepped up to the plate.  The Capitals’ stars didn’t, especially when they needed it most in game 7.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was, in my opinion, the Capitals’ best player this series.  He needed to be a factor if the Capitals were to win this series, but he should not have been their best player…

Alexander Ovechkin had a few goals, sure, but none of them were game-changers.  He made mistakes in his defensive zone that cost his team goals more often than not, and played in a 3rd line in the final 3 games of the series, receiving less ice time than 6 other Capitals’ forwards in game 7.

Nick Backstrom had his moments, but didn’t really stick out at all to me.

TJ Oshie was largely just kind of there for this series.  He generated chances and was often causing mayhem in front of the net, but he did not contribute much offensively.

Justin Williams, Mr. Game 7 himself, was “out-Mr.-Game-7-ed” by Penguins’ forward Bryan Rust, and was largely invisible for the entire series.

John Carlson was…wait, who is he?

On the Penguins side, Crosby was about as good as it gets when he was healthy. Evgeni Malkin didn’t play his best hockey throughout the series but generated good chances, put up decent stats, and stepped up when Sid was out. Phil Kessel scored a few important goals for the Pens and continued to impress in the playoffs. Jake Guentzel continued his production and still leads the NHL playoffs in goal scoring. Nick Bonino came in clutch again in game 1 to give the Penguins the win.  And somehow, someway, Rust scored again and leaves Washington, DC with another elimination game game-winning goal in his back pocket.

Simply put: the Penguins’ big named guys outplayed the Capitals’ big named guys when it mattered most.  Period.

Quick Strike Ability

For the majority of this series, the Penguins were badly outplayed.  Ironically, one of their better games, game 3, was one of the games they would lose.  Regardless, the Penguins truly were not the better team for probably 80% of this series.

They were outshot 227-151, and often times the Capitals were able to have multiple shifts in a game where they would have the Penguins completely pinned in their zone.  The Penguins were not able to do this often to the Capitals.  And yet, they were able to win the series.

I think this was mainly due to the Penguins quick strike ability.  It seemed as though many of the Penguins goals came after an extended shift for Washington when it seemed like they were going to get a goal.  All of the sudden, someone has a breakaway or the Penguins have a 3 on 2 the other way and score.

The Penguins shooting percentage was 11.26% in this series, which is incredibly high.  I really do not think Holtby played an awful series.  His stats were not good at all, but I honestly think the Penguins simply scored at will when they needed to and generated high-danger scoring chances and capitalized, unlike the Caps.

The Penguins Are In Their Heads

The Penguins own a 9-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals, and Ovechkin has yet to see an Eastern Conference Final.  Oh, and every Stanley Cup the Penguins’ have won in the Crosby era involve the Penguins going through Washington.

Need I say more?

Mike Sullivan

The Penguins, somehow, took a 3-1 series lead into game 5, but it certainly did not feel like a 3-1 series lead.  The Penguins even took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period of game 5, before allowing 3 goals in the 3rd and losing 4-2.  The Penguins then came back home for a game 6 with another chance to wipe out the Capitals, and were just straight up man-handled.  The Caps put up 5 straight goals to open the scoring, and the Pens would lose 5-2 as Guentzel and Malkin put up meaningless tallies in the games’ waning minutes.

The series then shifted to Washington for game 7, and it just screamed 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Canadiens all over again.  The Penguins had the 3-1 lead coming off of a Cup win the previous year, but just became too fatigued and did not have the drive, heart, or energy to finish it off.

Except the guy behind the bench isn’t Michel Therrien or Dan Bylsma.

Sullivan and his coaching staff should receive a ton of credit for this game 7 win and series win.  The Penguins, after being dominated at home in embarrassing fashion, had a practice that was almost entirely X’s and O’s, as stated by multiple sites/sources.  The coaching staff knew what they needed to adjust against Washington, and clearly, they pushed the right buttons, as the 2-0 final game 7 score indicated.  Sullivan said after the game that this was the best game for the Penguins this postseason, and it’s hard to disagree.

This team felt the pressure of game 7, but they fed off of it, rather than let it get to them like this team had in the past, and I attribute that to Mike Sullivan.  He has changed this team and their mindset, and makes it extremely difficult to ever count these Penguins out.

Sullivan is now 6-0 in playoff series as the Penguins’ head coach, and you can bet he wants to be 8-0 after this year.

He’s not done, and these Penguins aren’t done either…

Bring it on, Ottawa.

Jake Guentzel Turning Heads

Welcome to Guentzelvania ladies and gentlemen.

Jake Guentzel has made an incredible impact in the Penguins lineup, ever since getting called up from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.

In 2013, the Penguins selected Guentzel in the 3rd round, (77th overall). Usually NHL fans are interested and have all eyes on who their team is picking in the first or second round. The Penguins ended up trading their first round pick for Jarome Iginla prior to the 2013 draft, so the average Pens fans were not paying attention, as they usually would be.

Guentzel went on to the University of Nebraska-Omaha piling on 119 points in the 108 games played with them.

Guentzel was yet another Ray Shero draft pick. In fact, he was one of Ray’s last draft picks of the Shero era in Pittsburgh. It’s remarkable how Shero is technically still some how involved with today’s Pittsburgh Penguins. His late round picks of guys like Bryan Rust, Matt Murray, Scott Wilson, and others have lead to have been a key part as to why the Pens have been so successful. However, lets remember that Shero got fired for a reason, and Jim Rutherford took care of business.

When the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins were approaching the playoffs last season, Guentzel joined the team for the final 11 games before the playoffs began. In those 11 games, Jake scored 6 points (2G, 4 A) which is pretty remarkable for someone so young like Guentzel to do.

Then the playoffs came along and a switch went on for Guentzel, who had 14 points in 10 playoff games last post season for the Baby Pens.

After the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Guentzel had to make sure he was on top of his game in order to crack a roster spot with the defending Stanley Cup Champions. He did in fact have an impressive pre-season, but it was not enough to make the line up just yet. One of the hardest things for a rookie like Guentzel was to make an NHL lineup. Players like him, who usually get drafted in later rounds don’t crack NHL rosters all the time. Just to top it all off, he had to make the roster of the team who just won the Cup.

He started getting attention in the AHL this season, in which he had 17 points before getting the call up to the Penguins on November 21st. The injury bug had begun for the Pens and it would not let up the whole entire season. In Guentzel’s NHL debut, he scored his first NHL goal on his very first shift and his first shot. It didn’t even stop there; Guentzel ended up scoring twice in his first 15 minutes of his first game. Not many players could say that they’ve done that, and Penguins fans were on high alert after the young gun’s first game.

Things went very well for Jake in his first season in the NHL. He ended up receiving the honor of making the 2016-17 AHL All-Rookie Team and even getting selected to take part in the AHL All Star Game. However, Jake was too busy tearing it up in the NHL and even got the chance to play with Sidney Crosby on the same line.

Crosby had already been killing it with Conor Sheary, but as soon as Guentzel joined the line, things were looking amazing. The “Sid and the Kids” line were so impressive towards the end of the regular season. Guentzel had ended up scoring 33 points in only 40 games. To put that in perspective, he had more points than Dylan Larkin, Gabriel Landeskog, and Andrew Ladd, none of which played less than 72 games. Guentzel did this in almost half as many.

We have so much to look forward to as Guentzel already has six points in only five playoff games. Guentzel even scored the OT winner in game three to achieve a hat trick. The future looks so bright with Guentzel and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a Stanley Cup Champion here soon.

This Penguins Team is Much, Much Different

The second-most difficult task in professional sports is winning a championship.

There’s many difficult layers and aspects to winning the highly desired prize, and many professional sports franchises are never able to call themselves the cream of the crop, or simply, the best of the world. While many will believe that winning a championship is the most daunting and difficult task for a club to achieve, many underestimate that there is something even more difficult for a team to accomplish: winning multiple championships.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year, we all know this. I don’t need to say anymore about that. What I can say, however, is how this team is different. Yes, I understand that the turnover isn’t much different than last years team. As a matter of fact, Ben Lovejoy, Beau Bennett, and Eric Fehr are the only three that have departed since then. Regardless of personnel, this team is still different.

The “HBK” line is almost non-existent. During last years playoff run, the trio of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel was the most dominant line of the playoffs. This year, the line struggled to play like their former selves. Bonino has seen his play elevate in the past month, but Kessel isn’t performing like he should. Kessel, who dominated last year’s playoffs with 10 goals and 22 points in 24 games. This year, Kessel has managed to score 22 goals and 67 points in 79 games which is fair, but he has struggled as of late to put the puck in the back of the net.

Hagelin has been out of commission due to an injury and may not even see play in the first round against Columbus. Taking the role as the speedy left winger, Bryan Rust has slotted next to Bonino and Kessel and this new line has been playing decent hockey. Hagelin, when he returns, will most likely play with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist.

Kris Letang will miss the entire playoffs. Ouch. The undisputed best defenseman on the Penguins roster, and arguably the team’s most important player, will not be able to assist the injury-riddled Penguins win another Stanley Cup. Many have argued that the Penguins would not have won the Stanley Cup last year without Letang. Losing Letang was tough, there’s no doubt about it. Without Letang, it is going to be very difficult to win the Stanley Cup.

On the other side, this team is very different from last year (in a positive way). Jake Guentzel surprised everyone and showed how deep the Penguins prospect pool really is. Guentzel has scored 15 goals this season and has helped form one of the best lines in hockey. Did I mention that Guentzel, who was playing College hockey last year, plays next to Sidney Crosby? Who would’ve thought a college player could play on a wing with Sidney Crosby?

Even worse, who would’ve thought that both of Crosby’s wingers were college players. Conor Sheary is slowly turning into an elite player. He has developed and progressed remarkably last year, and this is a player who scored two goals in the Stanley Cup Finals. With 23 goals this year, Sheary has defied the odds and has turned out to be a true gem for the Penguins.

“Sid and the Kids” is this years “HBK.” The team has needed a line to be hot and they got one. If the Penguins hope to win the cup again, “Sid and the Kids” is going to have to guide them there.

As I mentioned before, Letang isn’t going to play in the playoffs. While the loss is devastating, there is somebody that could possibly take his place. Justin Schultz has been tremendous for the Penguins this season. Absolutely tremendous. Who would’ve thought this guy was only traded for a third round pick? I’m not going to talk too much about Schultz as there’s a future story coming up.

The Penguins also added veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit at the trade deadline, and with Letang now out of commission, these trades are even more valuable now. Chad Ruhwedel has played fairly well for the Penguins, and if another injury occurs, Ruhwedel may very well make the playoff roster.

The Penguins final regular season game and first playoff games may have very different rosters. The games are only a few days apart, but the impact of the two are substantially different. If the Penguins have home ice in the first round by Game 82, I would expect several players to be sitting the game out. Olli Maatta, Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Hagelin, and Tom Sestito are all currently out with injury. I’m expecting Maatta and Malkin to be ready to go by Game 1, but Kunitz and Hagelin may be out a little bit longer (I doubt Sestito sees playoff time).

Regardless of the team’s low turnover rate, this team is much different than last years. Injuries have plagued the team, some younger players have stepped up, and line combinations have been changed. This team is a great team, one of the best in Penguins history. What the deciding factor on how great this team will be, however, is if they’re able to win the Stanley Cup again. Winning a sports championship is hard. Winning a championship again is harder. If this team can win again, they may just be the best in team history.