It was a fun week of wondering who would stick around to the final cuts of the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp. We know the answers. Monday afternoon the Penguins trimmed their roster to 27 players in preparation for their final two preseason games and the Oct. 1 salary cap reduction.
Top draft choice Sam Poulin and third-rounder Nathan Legare were returned to the junior teams, each in the QMJHL. Both players signed their three-year ELC last week after stellar training camp performances. Legare had two goals in 23 seconds last Thursday night against Columbus. Both also received praise from the organization and coaches in the process. Their entry-level deals won’t kick in until they turn pro, in one or two years.
The Penguins also sent Sam Lafferty, who played in all four preseason games to the WBS Penguins camp. Lafferty is a second-year pro who spent last season with the WBS Penguins, as well. Lafferty had 49 points (13g, 36a) last season.
Also demoted were forwards Andrew Agozzino, Justin Almeida, Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Joseph Blandisi, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas Di Pauli, Ryan Haggerty, Jake Lucchini, Sam Miletic and Oula Palve. Defensemen Niclas Almari, Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and David Warsofsky were sent to the AHL camp as was rookie Finnish goaltender Emil Larmi.
Agozzino, Blandisi, Cramarossa, Czuczman, Di Pauli, Haggerty, and Warsofsky all must clear waivers before they can join the WBS Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins final two preseason games are at home on Wednesday against Detroit and Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. The Penguins roster is down to 14 forwards, and 13 are likely to be kept. Speedy Adam Johnson is the final forward left in camp with a chance to disrupt the presumed 13-forward rotation.
The Penguins have 10 defensemen left, including John Marino, Zach Trotman, Chad Ruhwedel and Juuso Riikola. PHN published a full analysis of Marino’s push for an NHL roster spot and where he likely stands. The Penguins remain several hundred thousand over the salary cap and will not be able to keep eight defensemen as they did last season, so only seven defensemen will stick with the NHL roster.
Chad Ruhwedel and Juuso Riikola are the primary contenders.
It was a fun ride watching Poulin and Legare. It is probably the prudent move to return each now, but it would have been fun to watch each against better NHL competition, and play beside more NHL players.