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IIHF World Championship

Penguins Notebook: Karlsson Makes His Point(s)



Erik Karlsson

It was been a fairly busy day at the world championships for members of the Pittsburgh Penguins, with four of them — Sweden’s Erik Karlsson and Marcus Pettersson and Jesse Puljujarvi and Valtteri Puustinen of Finland — in action.

Karlsson, as has often been the case during the first week-plus of the tournament, was a difference-maker, as he scored the game-winning goal in the third period of Sweden’s 3-1 victory against France.

(For the record and per the above tweet, Karlsson’s goal actually broke a 1-1 tie. Sweden’s final goal was an empty-netter.)

Karlsson has four goals and three assists in six games, giving him more points than any defenseman except Switzerland’s Roman Josi (three goals, eight assists).

He is the top scorer among Penguins players in the competition, although Puljujarvi isn’t far behind. He did not record a point in Finland’s 3-1 win against Finland, but has three goals and two assists in six games.

Here’s how the other Penguins are faring at the worlds:

Alex Nedeljkovic (USA) — 2.02 goals-against average, .875 save percentage and one shutout in three appearances.

Michael Bunting (Canada) — One goal and three assists in six games.

Marcus Pettersson (Sweden) — Two goals and two assists in six games.

Valtteri Puustinen (Finland) — One goal and no assists in six games.

All those players should have a chance to burnish their stats Tuesday, because every team that has a Penguins player on its roster will be playing then. Canada will take on Czechia, the USA faces Latvia, Sweden meets Slovakia and Finland squares off with Switzerland.

The Penguins are represented in off-ice capacities at the tournament, too. Assistant coach Ty Hennes is an assistant to USA coach John Hynes, one-time coach of the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, while president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas is associate general manager for Canada.

Back for seconds

It’s reasonable to believe that everyone associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins was disappointed when the New York Rangers knocked Carolina out of the Stanley Cup playoffs last week.

Not only because Jake Guentzel, who was sent to the Hurricanes at the trade deadline, is well-liked and highly respected inside the organization, but because Carolina going out before the Cup Final meant that the Penguins will receive a second-round draft choice, not a first-rounder, as part of the deal for Guentzel. (They also lost a fifth-round choice because of that.)

It could have been worse for the Penguins, however.

They could have had a trade work out that way during the long stretch in franchise history when players they claimed in Round 2 of the draft almost never had a significant impact in the NHL — if they made it there at all.

Between 1976, when the Penguins selected Greg Malone (704 NHL games) and 2011, when they chose Scott Harrington (255), only five of their picks lasted in the league long enough to make 100 appearances.

The members of that select group: Dave Capuano (1986, 104 games), Rick Tabaracci (1987, 287 games), Paul Laus (1989, 530), Richard Park (1994, 738 games) and Alex Goligoski (2004, 1,078).

There is a longer list of second-rounders during that time who never skated a shift in the NHL.

They include Marc Hussey, Brian Gaffaney, Alexander Zevakhin, Jeremy Van Hoof, Ondrej Nemec, Johannes Salmonsson, Michael Gergen and Keven Veilleux.

Gergen is the answer to a trivia question — Who did the Penguins draft between Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in 2005? — while Carl Sneep (one NHL game) and Mark Major (two games) barely dodged inclusion on the never-made-it list.

Happily for the Penguins — in part because they’ve made a habit of trading their No. 1 selections — they’ve fared a lot better with the second-round picks over the past decade or so.

Beginning with Harrington in 2011, a number of their Round 2 choices have found steady work at this level.

Teddy Blueger (2012, 336 NHL games), Tristan Jarry (2013, 257), Daniel Sprong (2015, 344), Filip Gustavsson (2016, 111) and Calen Addison (2018, 152) are in that group.

What’s more, two other second-rounders — goalie Joel Blomqvist (2020) and Tristan Broz (2021) — are expected to challenge for spots on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster this fall.