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NHL Scouts Critique Zajac, Stepan, and Two Former Penguins Centers | PHN+



Pittsburgh Penguins Derick Brassard, NHL Trade

“If you’re getting them for the fourth hole, wing or center, okay, not bad. But if you’re getting them for the third hole, that comes with a rosary.”

That’s what one scout said about veteran UFA centers Travis Zajac, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Brandon Sutter, Derek Ryan, and Carl Soderberg. So the teams in search of a reliable third-line center should probably look elsewhere.

The Pittsburgh Penguins could have a need for a fourth-line center if the Seattle Kraken pluck Teddy Blueger. Our colleague Sheng Peng chatted with three NHL scouts about the best pivots in this summer’s free agency class and what they could add to a new team.

Scouts broke down centers, including David Krejci, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Phillip Danault, Mikael Granlund, Alex Wennberg, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tyler Bozak, Nick Bonino, Barclay Goodrow, Paul Stastny, and Ryan Getzlaf.

Not all of the evaluations have been kind. Penguins fans will likely find affirmation in the particular way the scout’s “reviewed” Brassard. And if the Penguins find themselves in need, Stepan is another former Mike Sullivan player, too.

Here’s what the scouts think of the lower tier centers: Do Zajac, Stepan, Brassard, Sutter, Ryan, or Soderberg still have good hockey to offer the Pittsburgh Penguins or another NHL team?

Travis Zajac

Scout #1: He’s right in the middle [between third and fourth-line center.

You don’t love him as a third-line guy, but you’re okay with it.

Certainly not at the top of the list of third-line guys.

Scout #2: I don’t think he’ll go far. I think he’ll either stay with the Islanders, or he’ll end up east. He’s got kids. I don’t think he’s gonna be open game [in the free agency market]. I don’t see that happening. That’s just my opinion.

I don’t know if he’s a 3C. He might be able to a little bit. He’s got great game, but he’s down the stretch run, you know?

He’s got terrific, terrific details in his game. He is a really smart player. Great in the room. There’s a lot of positives. He just doesn’t have a lot left.

Derek Stepan

Scout #1: Skating is always the issue with him. He’s a step behind.

The skating has really dropped off for me over the years. He’s got a lot of wear and tear on the body, a lot of injuries. I would probably stay clear of him.

I think there’s some upside…if he does play.

Scout #2: I don’t think he’s got enough [to be a third-liner].

He’s a smart player; he’s a very good utility guy. As a fourth-line player, he’s a good player. But if you’re expecting him to be a third-liner, I think you’re reaching.

Scout #3: He’d be more of a 4C. But I’d take him as a 4C.

Derick Brassard

Scout #2: Brassard is an average player on a poor team. He has to be on a short leash because he can’t get himself up to play the way he needs to play every night.

He’s got a little bit of game left, but if you’re thinking he’s a third-line guy…I don’t think he’s motivated enough.

He has a good A-game, but you’ll only see it a handful of times through the season.

Scout #3: I don’t think he’s a good 3C. He’s a guy that can help you with some offense. I would have him more on the wing.

He’s a guy that you have on your team and you play him lower in the lines, a little bit of power play. But 3C? No.

Brandon Sutter

Scout #1: I’ve always had time for him, a solid fourth-line center.

He’s big, he’s smart, but he can never stay healthy.

Scout #2: I don’t think he’s got enough there [to be a 3C]. But he’s in that Zajac mode, older, smart.

Scout #3: I’d have him a little bit with Bonino but less offense. Defensive center, strong. Less offensive skill than Bonino but skates about the same.

It’s been a while since he’s put up points. But he’s still a good player.

Derek Ryan

Scout #3: I like him. But again, not a 3C. I see more of a 4C type.

I think he’s slowing down. He’s not a very strong player either. He’s just a smart guy that knew where to go, had some offense. But you lose some speed? It just goes.

Carl Soderberg

Scout #1: His skating’s dropped off.

I don’t mind Carl as insurance on your fourth line. He’d be fine in the fourth-line role because he’s pretty responsible, he can take faceoffs, he’s a big body. So once you do establish zone time, he’s good off the cycle and along the walls, and he’ll get to the net.

But his skating is an issue for me.

(Pittsburgh Hockey Now note: Soderberg signed with the SHL’s Malmo Redhawks earlier this week.)

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