The bigger stories in the Pittsburgh Penguins universe have been the addition and subtractions on the backend of the Penguins blueline. For better or worse, gone are Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson, but Kris Letang still anchors the Penguins backside.
This week, the NHL Network ranked Letang as a top-10 defenseman, ahead of some of the NHL’s biggest names.
At the top of the list were the Norris Trophy stalwarts Victor Hedman and Roman Jossi. At No. 8 was the long-time Penguins top defenseman and core player, Kris Letang.
Letang, 33, has been an integral piece on the Penguins blueline since he was a third-round pick in the 2005 NHL Draft. The first Penguins pick that year was Sidney Crosby.
There are several questions around the Penguins blue line, but the top pairing as Brian Dumoulin and Letang have gobbled up the big minutes for several seasons. Letang placed eighth on the experts’ list and the fan list, several spots ahead of former Norris winner Brent Burns.
Letang also finished several spots ahead of Vegas Golden Knights defender Shea Theodore, seven spots ahead of LA Kings Drew Doughty, 10 spots ahead of San Jose Sharks Erik Karlsson, and one spot ahead of quickly rising Charlie McAvoy in Boston.
Last season, Letang remained healthy and played 61 of 69 games. His aggregate numbers were proportionally lower than recent seasons as he scored 44 points (15g, 29a), but his play was steady with less risk, too.
“Letang’s game was noticeably different last season. He took fewer chances,” said PHN Editor-in-Chief Dan Kingerski. “He hasn’t lost a step, and the Penguins top pairing is among the best in the league.”
At 33-years old, Letang has 14 years in a black-and-gold sweater. It also appears the Pittsburgh Penguins organization has decided to keep the Penguins core with Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby together for the remainder of their careers. However, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t fully slam the door shut on the idea of trading Letang or Malkin when he appeared on a national podcast this summer.
In his 14-year career, Letang has played 808 games with 537 points (127g, 410a). He has also averaged more than 24 minutes per game in each of the last 10 seasons.
The NHL Network list has a few debatable ranks, including Karlsson at No. 18. Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber, who helped blast the Penguins out of the NHL postseason, was 16th.
What do you think?
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) November 2, 2020