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Penguins Notebook: Brayden Yager Shines; Guentzel’s a Gamer vs. NYR

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Brayden Yager

The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting a look at how Brayden Yager, their first-round draft choice in 2023, performs in high-stakes games, and they have to like what they’re seeing.

A lot.

Yager, a center with Moose Jaw in the Western Hockey League, has 11 goals and 12 assists in 18 playoff games, which is good for a share of third place in the league’s postseason scoring race.

Yager hardly is doing it alone — teammate Jagger Firkus tops the WHL with 31 points and defenseman Denton Mateychuk has a fairly remarkable 28 of them — but he has helped the Warriors to close in on a league championship.

He has a goal and an assist after two games of the WHL final against Portland, as the Warriors have grabbed a 2-0 lead in the series heading into Game 3 Tuesday at the Moose Jaw Events Centre. The next three games are scheduled there before the series, if still alive, shifts back to Oregon.

As noted in this space several weeks ago, success outside the NHL doesn’t necessarily translate to productivity in the game’s best league. But while the Penguins would like for Yager to add some muscle to his 6-foot, 170-pound frame, there can be no question about the hand skills he showed while scoring this goal against the Winterhawks in Game 2:

Guentzel guns for Rangers

Carolina is trying to pull off the near-impossible — overcoming a 3-0 deficit to win its second-round series against the New York Rangers.

Although the Hurricanes won Game 4 at home Saturday, New York can secure a spot in the Eastern Conference final against the winner of the Florida-Boston series with a victory in Game 5 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

And while the Rangers have a lot going for them, having to contain Jake Guentzel this evening is not on the list.

Guentzel has appeared in 11 playoff games against the Rangers — the first seven as a member of the Penguins — and recorded at least one point in each of them, racking up 11 goals and four assists.

A world away

Pittsburgh Penguins free-agent-to-be Alex Nedeljkovic, a late addition to Team USA’s roster, has taken on a prominent role at the world championships in Czechia.

How long he will retain it remains to be seen, however.

Nedeljkovic got the start in a 5-4 overtime loss to Slovakia Monday, but was removed in favor of Michigan State’s Trey Augustine at 8:47 of the second period after allowing the first four Slovak goals.

Alex Lyon, the No. 1 U.S. goalie, was injured early in the second period of a 6-1 victory over Germany Saturday, when someone stepped on his left hand.

Lyon is out of the tournament and reportedly returned to the U.S. Sunday to have his injury examined.

Augustine, who is 19 and was a second-round draft choice of the Red Wings in 2023, finished the game against Germany, stopping 11 of 12 shots, as well as the one versus Slovakia.

Meanwhile, Erik Karlsson’s late-season surge with the Pittsburgh Penguins appears to have carried over to the world championships.

He had two goals and an assist in Sweden’s 5-1 victory over Poland Sunday.

And while Connor Bedard has gotten a lot of attention after scoring four goals in Canada’s first two games, Penguins winger Michael Bunting, who was acquired from the Hurricanes in the Guentzel trade, is off to a nice start in the competition, with two goals and an assist.

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Cal
Cal
6 days ago

Yager is playing awesome, playing for the crest on the front of his jersey not the letters on the back, good western Canadian kid!

Aaron
Aaron
6 days ago

As a Penguin’s fan, I’ll never forget when Nedeljkovic was on the Red Wings and allowed 7 goals in less than 2 periods of play. This is the goalie you delusional fans will go to war with? The final from that game was 11-2 Penguins.

Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
6 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

So one game defines a whole career for you?

Aaron
Aaron
6 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

Or today at Worlds when he allowed 4 goals on 16 shots?

Last edited 6 days ago by Aaron
Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
5 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

So two games define a career for you? You can pick out bad games for every guy who has ever played the game.

Aaron
Aaron
5 days ago
Reply to  Stanley Kupp

The fact of the matter is that he is a career back-up goaltender. Some delusional Penguin’s fans think he could be the outright starter, and it would probably go worse than the last two years.

Last edited 5 days ago by Aaron
Bachinga
Bachinga
6 days ago

Cawlidge hockey is better than the WHL…there are some USHL teams that could beat most WHL teams…