5 Players to Keep an Eye on During Pittsburgh Penguins’ Training Camp
Sidney Crosby and team
“It’s a hockey night in Pittsburgh!” These famous words of Pittsburgh Penguins’ Hall of Fame play-by-play broadcaster Mike Lang will be said soon enough in Pittsburgh as the NHL season is closely approaching.
In the shortened 2013 NHL season, the Penguins were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. This was a no-brainer for many people. The Penguins had two MVPs and scoring champions on their team in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins also have a supporting cast that rivals many countries’ Olympic teams with players like James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang. When the team added players at the deadline like Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla, everyone thought that this team would win their fourth Stanley Cup. However, these things are not won on paper. The Penguins fell to the Boston Bruins in four games and are once again looking to push for their fourth championship.
The Penguins retained many key players going into this season such as Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang. This will help keep the core of the team together for a few more seasons. Pens fans will also see some new players at training camp, such as former first-round draft picks Ollie Matta and Derrick Pouliot.
On top of these players mentioned, there are five people on the Penguins’ team that I feel fans need to keep an eye on during training camp. These individuals will have a major impact on the team this year and could help the team get over the hump and win the most sought-after cup in the hockey world.
5. Jacques Martin
When fans talk about impact people on a team to watch during training camp, coaches usually do not come to mind. The Penguins did not get a new head coach, but they did add a new coach that has experience, is award-winning and knows the NHL game very well. This offseason, the Penguins hired former Jack Adams’ award-winning coach Jacques Martin to their coaching staff. Martin knows how to win. He has won gold medals and also is famous in Pittsburgh for knocking the Penguins out of the playoffs a year after they won the Stanley Cup. Martin’s role may be to serve as the tough coach in the room. Dan Bylsma is known as a players’ coach and Martin may be able to come in and be the tough coach that this team needs to get over the hump, especially when they need a reality check!
4. Simon Despres
The Penguins know where most of the players on their team will play this fall, however there are some that are still looking to find their place in the line-up. One person in particular is defenseman Simon Despres. Despres was drafted by the Penguins 30th overall in the 2009 Entry Draft. Since joining the Penguins, Despres has been in and out of the lineup. During some games, he looks as if he is lost. But in other games, he shows why he was selected in the first round. Despres has shown a natural ability on the offensive side of the game and has worked very well with fellow French-Canadian Kris Letang. With the arrival of Rob Scuderi as well as the battle between Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, another young defensemen, it will be interesting to see how Despres fits into the Penguins plans moving forward this season.
3. Beau Bennett
There is no doubt in Pittsburgh who the next young star playing forward will be, and that player is
Bennett came onto the scene last season, during which he had 14 points in 26 games. He also had a huge goal in his first ever playoff game during this past season. Bennett is a very gifted offensive player on a team that is already filled with them. Bennett’s skill set seems to suit captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s play. However, both of these players have other line mates that they seem to enjoy playing with already. I personally feel that Bennett will start on Malkin’s line with James Neal, but I think the team will eventually move Chris Kunitz back to play with Malkin and this would allow Bennett to play with Crosby and Dupuis. We will have to keep a close eye on this story throughout training camp and into the season.
2. Rob Scuderi
The last time Pittsburgh fans saw Rob Scuderi in a Penguins’ uniform was when he was pushing Detroit Red Wings players out of the way of the goal during the final seconds of Game Seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. Since Scuderi left Pittsburgh, the Pens have not won the Cup. However, the team that he left the Penguins for, the Los Angeles Kings, did win the Cup. General Manager Ray Shero had the chance and did sign him this offseason in an attempt to solidify the team’s blue line. It will be interesting to see who Coach Dan Bylsma puts Scuderi with to start the season. It will also be interesting to see if Scuderi can fit back in with the team that he won his first championship with.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
Quite possibly the most watched person on the Penguins’ team this season, and maybe the city of Pittsburgh itself, will be goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is a Stanley Cup winning goaltender and is one of the most athletic goalies on the planet. Fleury can make saves that gymnasts look at with awe! Fleury has been one of the most dependable goalies in the regular season and has helped the Pens get to the playoffs since the 2006-2007 season. However, since the Pens won the Cup in 2009, the man the Penguins’ fans call “The Flower” has not “bloomed” during the playoffs. Fleury seems to get the jitters when it comes to these games. He even was replaced for most of last year’s playoffs by backup goalie Tomas Vokoun. Penguins fans and coaches will be watching Fleury in training camp to see if he can bounce back and be the man that everyone knows he can be and lead the Pens back to the promised land!