After two games in two nights and the NHL preseason winding down, the Penguins roster choices are becoming clear. Greg McKegg is winning, and others are losing. Until the Pittsburgh Penguins make a trade for a bonafide NHL third line center, McKegg looks like he has locked down the job.
McKegg found space in the offensive zone and took it away in the defensive zone, Monday night. The Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1 at the new Little Caesars Arena, but McKegg was a winner.
“He’s certainly been impressive throughout training camp to this point,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. The Penguins specifically utilized McKegg on the penalty killing unit, Monday, which is a sure sign they’re looking ahead to the regular season when McKegg could be heavily relied upon in that role. “We feel like he’s doing a good job there,” said Sullivan.
McKegg played 2:49, shorthanded and was on the ice for the Red Wings power play goal at 13:14 of the first period. He was caught in front of the net when Wings winger Michael Rasmussen beat defenseman Jarred Tinordi and charged towards the crease.
With more experience, McKegg would probably step into Rasmussen before he got to the net, but that would have left most of the ice surface wide-open, too. After Tinordi was beaten, McKegg had no good options.
McKegg also created a couple good scoring chances with his speed:
Penguins Roster: Jay McClement, Derrick Pouliot Losing
Fellow potential third line center Jay McClement has played over 900 career NHL games, including the last three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. Unfortunately, McClement has provided no spark or otherwise been noticeable in positive ways during Penguins camp. On a PTO, it now appears unlikely McLement will earn a contract from the Penguins.
Derrick Pouliot may be out of chances. The former first-round pick built his funeral pyre and set it ablaze, especially in the second period. Take these highlights, for example. The Red Wings earned a couple big scoring chances with the lazy and slow play from Pouliot:
Whoops. Pouliot was little more than a spectator there. He followed it up with an outlet pass off Daniel Sprong‘s skates. Sprong could have done much more, too.
Watching Pouliot and Sprong in the defensive zone is typically something best experienced with large quantities of alcohol or sedatives.
Derrick Pouliot will likely never play another regular season game in a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater. Even if he isn’t the oft rumored trade piece for Red Wings pivot Riley Sheahan, his play is too far gone. Mike Sullivan’s facial expression, when asked about Pouliot, was unmistakable.
Was the Penguins $800,000 contract with Pouliot simply a case of keeping a trade piece in their back pocket?
After a solid camp, and a nice start to the preseason, Zach Trotman was not good, Monday. His breakouts were slow and he was soundly beaten by Anthony Mantha on the Red Wings second goal. Trotman had the position…until he didn’t…and Mantha skated past him towards the net.
Chad Ruhwedel is the 7th defenseman winner, by default. Ruhwedel is steady, consistent and productive within the Penguins system, even if he is unspectacular. Ruhwedel stepped into the offensive zone for a couple chances in the first period.
The Penguins have exceptional depth on the blue line. They will boast nine NHL capable defensemen and Derrick Pouliot. Ruhwedel may not be the seventh defenseman all season, as Trotman or Tinordi could improve when acclimated to the system. However, Ruhwedel is currently the clear choice.
Wednesday night will be the last chance for several players to make an impression. Tickets are about $10 on the secondary market. If you see me and my little notebook, please feel free to stop and talk some hockey.