The 2016-17 season is fast approaching with preseason in full swing. With the season looming, every team is getting their ducks in a row for the new campaign, including the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Pundits have made much of the Penguins’ star-powered offense but have given the deep blue line relatively little attention.
The Penguins currently have nine defensemen listed on their official roster. However, with off-season acquisitions including Stuart Percy and David Warsofsky, one would expect ten to fifteen defenseman to be at training camp. Let’s take a look at some of the major names on the blue line for the Penguins.
Penguins Defense – Player Breakdown
Finnish young gun Olli Maatta is often one of the first names in fans’ minds when discussing the Penguins defense and with good reason. No stranger to hardship, Maatta has spent his three NHL seasons fighting off injuries and thyroid cancer. Last season, he was paired with a variety of experienced defenseman, but he ended the playoffs with veteran Ben Lovejoy. Maatta had seven assists in 18 playoff games for the Penguins and, if he stays injury free, could look to gain more experience and improve upon his offensive output.
Another young gun stepped up for the Penguins blue line when an injury sidelined some of their best players. Brian Dumoulin was paired with Ian Cole, who like Dumoulin is also quick defenseman. Over the playoffs, Dumoulin netted eight points over the span of 24 games. Look for him to keep adding to his plus-minus rating this year.
Cole, one of the Penguins top 3 defensemen, in terms of veteran status, has been with Pittsburgh for two years going on his third. Look for Cole to add to his point total from the last two years. That point total was 20 points. Cole is most likely to be paired with one of the young guns on the third line for the Penguins.
Acquired late in the season for the Penguins, and filling in mostly where needed, Shultz played eighteen games and had positive point production, a first in his playing career of four seasons. There is potential for Shultz to fill in for the third defensive line. If his change of scenery indicated anything, it would be for Schultz to fully settle into his role with the Penguins in the 2016-17 season.
Coming into Pittsburgh through a trade fans still praise as a godsend, Daley is a speedy, experienced defenseman. Daley played 68 games, including 15 playoff games, before being sidelined with a broken foot. Expect Daley to help lead the blue line in minutes played as well as points.
Kris Letang , veteran, underrated defenseman, has been with the Penguins since he was drafted in 2005. During that span of time, he led the blue line to two Stanley cups . During the 2015-2016 season, Letang put up 67 points and solidified his rank as the second defenseman with the most points. Look for him to make up one-half of the top pairing of the Penguins defense, and perhaps be in the hunt for the Noris.
A young gun who has his fate in his own hands, Pouliot has been with the Penguins organization since he was drafted in 2012. He has only played two full seasons with the team, playing 56 games and netting 14 points. There’s room for improvement in Pouliot’s performance. It will be interesting to see if Pouliot comes ready to play for training camp, and if not, will he be traded for another player or picks? Only time will tell.
Last but not least, Porter was injured for the second half of the season with an ankle injury that required surgery. Although out during the playoffs, he had 41 games under his belt, the vast majority of which were before the coaching change. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Sullivan’s system and what role he will play for the Penguins.
With some defensive depth, the Penguins have a real shot at making another run for the Stanley Cup. The odds look to be in the Penguins favor. Only time will tell if the Penguins can repeat as cup champions.