The Pittsburgh Penguins lineup changed pretty drastically. Key pieces of the offense, namely Brandon Tanev, Jared McCann and Frederick Gaudreau, either left or were traded. To make matters worse, the defense also took a hit and will take some more hits as changes are certainly going to happen. That being said, there needs to be some players to step up and fill the roster. So, which prospects are ready to crack the NHL?
Pittsburgh’s third line was dismantled thoroughly throughout this offseason. McCann finally hit his stride and was doing well on Jeff Carter’s wing. Even then, Gaudreau also found his home and seemed like he could end up being permanent. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. McCann was traded to Toronto and, in what seems like a questionable decision, Gaudreau wasn’t re-signed. Assuming Evan Rodrigues takes the right wing, it would make sense to let Samuel Poulin enter the lineup.
Poulin was Pittsburgh’s first first-round pick in six years, so there’s a lot of pressure on him right now. Judging his numbers in the QMJHL, he seems ready. Poulin seems to be a playmaker, so throwing him on the third line with Carter would make some sense. However, he could also be put on the second line. That way, Poulin would be able to play and learn with Evgeni Malkin. Either way, giving Poulin time with the team could only benefit him.
While the offense certainly took the biggest hit, the defense didn’t survive free agency unscathed as Cody Ceci signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Even then, there’s still a good chance that Marcus Pettersson gets dealt sometime in the very near future. Interestingly enough, Pittsburgh’s management hasn’t signed any notable new defensemen. This likely means that Pierre-Olivier Joseph is ready for a full-time spot.
Although Joseph has already played 16 games in Pittsburgh’s injury-riddled season last year, he’s still considered a prospect. In those games, he scored one goal and amassed a total of five points. That’s far from bad. If Pittsburgh plans on trading Pettersson, Joseph could be a nice fit with John Marino. Nevertheless, he has proved that he’s ready for the NHL as he is one of the few prospects in Pittsburgh with some experience under their belt.
There are many skilled prospects in the Penguins system that will certainly see some ice time in the future. However, Joseph and Poulin are the ones that look like they’re ready right now. Some of the other notable prospects, like Nathan Legare, Kasper Bjorkqvist and Filip Hallander, just need a bit more time before they are ready to make their debuts. When they do, however, they’ll make the team that much better.
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