Connect with us

NHL Trade Rumors

Foreshadowing Trades? Penguins Move O’Connor to Center, Suffers Concussion



Pittsburgh Penguins, Lars Eller, Drew O'Connor

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan made several changes to his lines Tuesday, in what could have been foreshadowing the Penguins’ lineup following the NHL trade deadline on Friday. After three straight bruising losses on the recent four-game road trip and deflated spirits, Sullivan made a couple of surprising moves, including moving Drew O’Connor to third-line center.

However, O’Connor, 25, did not finish the game. Later in the second period, Sullivan said O’Connor suffered a concussion. He did not return.

In the nine minutes O’Connor played, he had two shot attempts and won three of his five faceoffs. His line had a goal when Jesse Puljujarvi created a turnover and scored at 13:33 of the first period.

The line had five scoring chances, allowing just one.

“We’re trying some different things to see if we can get some traction, you know? When you don’t have success, obviously. Change is inevitable,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to find some combinations that we think give us the best chance to win. And so some of the options that you saw tonight were stuff that we discussed for a long time.”

With the NHL trade deadline only a couple of days away, only a few Penguins players are safe. O’Connor was slotted at the third-line center instead of Lars Eller, who spent the game on the top-line LW with Sidney Crosby and Rickard Rakell. Eller is 34 years old and would appear to run afoul of president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas’s desire to get younger.

It’s a legitimate question if the Penguins were testing O’Connor at center to see if he could fill the void for the remainder of the season. Eller would be a solid pickup for a contending team in need of a good defensive center with a strong spirit and leadership qualities.

O’Connor has 21 points this season, scoring nine goals in 60 games. He’s set career highs in goals, assists (12) and points (21). He also played center for Team USA at the 2023 World Championships, when he was coached by Sullivan’s friend and former Boston U teammate David Quinn (who coaches the San Jose Sharks). 

“He’s a center. It was his main position coming up …  So he’s played a lot of the center ice position in Wilkes-Barre at the American League level. He’s played a little bit with us. We know he’s capable of playing there. And so I thought (O’Connor) did a good job. And the time that we had him there for the first two periods, I thought he did a good job. He was responsible down low and made some really good reads. He won a couple of key faceoffs.

(O’Connor) covers a lot of area with his reach and skating ability, so I thought he did a good job.”