Metropolitan Division: Pittsburgh Penguins Season Outlook
Pittsburgh Penguins season outlook

The Pittsburgh Penguins are coming off back-to-back cups going into this season and are in search of a three-peat. No team has won three Stanley Cups in a row since the New York Islanders did back in the 1980’s. The Penguins were the first team to win back-to-back cups since the Detroit Red Wings did in 1997-1998. Let’s take a look at how the Penguins look going into this season.


Pittsburgh’s forwards are of course led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin been the two best players of this generation. Crosby won the Rocket Richard last season scoring 44 goals, with Malkin added another 30 goal season to his resume. Despite both getting a bit older, they are primed for a big season yet again for the Penguins.

Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary make up a fantastic first line for the Penguins with Crosby as it clicked in the second half of the season. Sheary had an outstanding 3.27 points per 60 minutes, which is unbelievably good. Guentzel had 16 goals and 33 points in half of a season. He’ll be trying to crack 55-60 points this season, if not more. Guentzel also led the Penguins in goals in the playoffs with 13, including a hat trick against Columbus.

How can we forget about Phil Kessel? He’s one of the best pure goal scorers in the league and will be on Malkin’s line this season. He has been excellent in the big games for the Penguins and will look to potentially have another 25-30 goal season.

Bryan Rust is another solid forward who can chip in 15-20 goals for Pittsburgh.

Carl Hagelin should be able to bounce back. Hagelin wasn’t his usual self last year due to injury. When he’s healthy, he should be good for 10-15 goals, if not more.

Patric Hornqvist may not be ready to start the season, but even if he comes back after a week into the season, he’ll have another good season. Hornqvist is one of 13 players since 2009-2010 to have at least seven consecutive seasons of 20 goals or more. That’s consistency, and he’s an integral part of the team.

There’s other depth forwards such as Carter Rowney, Ryan Reaves, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson, who can also play some top-six minutes. Greg McKegg will start the season as the Penguins third line center. They will continue to look to acquire one.

The forward group doesn’t look as deep as it has the past couple seasons, but that’ll change before the playoffs.


The Penguins gets Kris Letang back fully healthy this season, and that’s massive. He missed 41 games last season and all of the playoffs due to a herniated disk in his neck, but they still won the cup without him. Letang had five goals and 34 points last season for Pittsburgh with a 52.9 CF%. He also had 5V5 points per 60 of 1.95 in half a season. He’ll be back on the top pair with Brian Dumoulin who doesn’t score that much but is great defensively in his own zone. Together, they form one of the better top pairings in the league.

Justin Schultz is also back after signing a three-year contract to stay in Pittsburgh. He had a career year last season with 12 goals and 51 points. That earned him a top ten finish in the Norris trophy voting for the first time in his career. He also did an outstanding job quarterbacking the top power play for Pittsburgh. He may stay on there during the start of the season. His 5V5 points per 60 of 1.88 is also out of this world for him.

Playing with Schultz could be Olli Maatta. Maatta didn’t have that good of a season last year but has looked much better this preseason. He’s struggled with injuries throughout his career and is trying to get back to where he was his rookie season when paired with Matt Niskanen. His skating looked sharp during some action in the preseason, and if he can come near to where he was his rookie season, it could be a big bounce-back season for Maatta.

On the bottom pairing, Pittsburgh has Matt Hunwick and Ian Cole. Cole isn’t known for his offense but is one of the best penalty killers on the team and is good defensively. If he comes up with another solid season, he may get a nice contract next season from a team. Hunwick was signed on July 1st as Trevor Daley’s replacement and has been fine in a bottom pairing role. He can move the puck, and his skating looked good during the preseason as well.

The defense looks to be stronger for Pittsburgh going into this season.


This will be Matt Murray’s first full season in net for the Penguins, and he’s more than ready for it. He had a .923 save percentage in 49 games with a HDSV% of 82.94 last season with Pittsburgh. That’s pretty great, and there’s a chance he could be a dark horse for the Vezina this season if he can play a full season and not get hurt.

Backing Murray up will be Antti Niemi who signed at the league minimum as he’s trying to build some stock up after a couple of very poor seasons with the Dallas Stars.


Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve?

Pittsburgh will be a buyer, and they’ll likely try to improve at center. They should be able to upgrade both of their center spots as that’ll make the team deeper going into the playoffs.

What rookies could make the team?

Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese got sent down, but they may come up during the season from Wilkes-Barre. No other rookies are making the team.

Which player could take a step forward this season?

Jake Guentzel can break out in a big way for the Penguins this season. He has the opportunity to be a 25-30 goal player this season after scoring 16 in 40 games.

Which players could regress?

There could be a decline in Hunwick’s play as he’s into his thirties, but it may be unlikely. Olli Maatta is also possible, but after a good preseason, he may be coming back to his former self.

How will the team do?

They are the favorite in the Metropolitan division this season and will be a contender to win it all again. Whether they do that though, remains to be seen.