After several months of no hockey but daily headlines, after months of wondering who would fill the Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys on opening night, we’re close to the beginning of the battle. Yet we still don’t know who will be calling the games on television or how the new-fangled Pittsburgh Sportsnet will operate under the control of the Fenway Sports Group.
Readers have questions. Perhaps like the long-departed Radio Shack, I have answers. Or some, anyway.
The Penguins prospects begin their climb Friday in Buffalo this afternoon. Of course, PHN will be there. However, the only “prospect” who is a serious threat to make the NHL roster is not 2023 first-round pick Brayden Yager but 2019 first-round pick Sam Poulin. The rest of the professional eligible prospects are battling for minor-league placements and contracts. Yager and the recent draftees will most likely return to juniors.
The Penguins will stream the tournament games. The first two won’t have announcers (Hey, offered…jokingly. It’s been 15 years since I did play-by-play, but I’d give it a whirl). Monday’s game will have announcers. You can go to the Pittsburgh Penguins website.
Let’s get to the Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A:
Any word on if/ when FSG will announce a streaming option for games?
— Lfusco (@lfusco85) September 13, 2023
They have not. My educated guess is that any radical changes will occur next season but not this one. FSG won’t take over until Oct. 1, and I’m told the process is a bit daunting. There are a lot of moving parts just to get ready for the coming season, most notably the search for broadcasters and staff. Sorry chord cutters, don’t expect any immediate changes.
maybe you’ve already answered but i’ll ask anyways. who do you think starts in the bottom 6 on opening night?
— Evgeni Malkin’s Brother (@BrotherEvgeni) September 13, 2023
Tell me you don’t read PHN every day without actually saying it. Cmon, Brother Evgeni!
I must confess that my recent projects probably underrated Matt Nieto. Having watched him in person, I see why Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas chased him in Toronto and finally made a point to get him in Pittsburgh. He’s fast.
The PTOs in camp will make a big difference, too. From here, Colin White seems almost a slam dunk to make the roster.
The bottom six will be come formation of Nieto, Lars Eller, Noel Acciari, Drew O’Connor, Colin White, and Andreas Johnsson. I think Vinnie Hinostroza will get a good look, as will Alex Nylander. Jake Guentzel’s injury could open space or need to add another forward, too. Overall, I like Johnsson’s ability to create offense. He’s the next Danton Heinen-type, a player capable of chipping in a few goals and even taking a few shifts higher in the lineup but won’t wow you or make you regret it.
Rem Pitlick remains a player I’m interested to see up close. However, his salary ($1.1 million) becomes a significant impediment to keeping him.
Did they add any grit to help the veterans or is it businesses as usual for our Stars…
— Keith Leckenby (@KeithLeckenby) September 13, 2023
Still no tough guys, they will be beaten into submission in the playoffs. You agree?
— Jim D. (@JimD54220320) September 13, 2023
Guys–as one of the last holdouts for some toughness and jam to protect stars, you’ve found in me a spiritual guide to the next phase. The simple answer is no. The longer answer is … no.
They’ve added some real grit with Acciari. Perhaps O’Connor takes another step forward in that aspect of his game, too.
However, how many teams actually have “protectors” or enforcers? Ryan Reaves is at the end of the line. Austin Watson isn’t far behind. The game has changed dramatically over the last five years. Yes, ideally, you’d like an Erik Gudbranson who can play and scare the snot out of Tom Wilson. Sure, when Chris Kreider, Matthew Tkachuk, or one of the Islanders gets chippy with Sidney Crosby, you’d like a player to skate over and offer to end the rambunctiousness.
But there aren’t many of those guys around, and the salary cap is tight enough. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are old enough that it doesn’t really affect their game. The dramatic improvement in the Penguins’ speed and tenacity will make them tough to play against.
Is Jarry’s contract movable if it turns out to be a mistake?
— Lfusco (@lfusco85) September 11, 2023
Is any contract moveable if it’s a mistake?
The fears surrounding Jarry are legitimate. So, too, should be the optimism. Jarry has a couple of All-Star game appearances and he’s a pretty good goalie. He battled injuries last season. The season before, he suffered an ankle injury when he was rolled by a charging forward. That shouldn’t happen again.
I know people love to say, “They should have only given him two years,” or “they paid him too much.” Yet, it was NHL free agency, and in those early days of July, the player has the leverage. Would you rather have Cam Talbot or Joonas Korpisalo in front of Alex Nedeljkovic?
The answer to that should be no.
What anticipated effect will the PTO guys have on the camp battles? Any of them have a an actual shot at displacing a signed guy or they all more likely W/B guys for depth at the end of the day?
— Bill Whitfield (@bilythekid33) September 11, 2023
I think Mark Pysyk and Colin White make the team and are on the ice opening night. Pysyk will be the Penguins third-pairing defenseman. White will be the fourth-line center.
I like the speed and grit that Auston Wagner brings. I like Libor Hajek’s potential as a mobile, tall defenseman. Hajek has a real chance to also make the roster sooner than later, especially if the defense corps suffers an injury on the left side.