You would think when a team loses a player like Sergei Gonchar, the offensive pendulum would swing a little further toward the forwards. So far in Pittsburgh, however, the opposite has been true. This could be the perfect storm fantasy owners who have been building their teams around the Penguins have been waiting for.
Both Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski now have enough NHL experience and enough confidence at the highest level to move the puck quickly and make the right decisions. Paul Martin was just starting to show signs of his great potential when he broke his arm playing for New Jersey last year. The Pens scooped him up as a UFA before he was able to really get going with the Devils.
Coach Dan Bylsma is using all three defensemen to get the puck to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And why not? They have more talent than any of the forwards not named Malkin or Crosby (other than Jordan Staal, who is injured). Martin, Letang and Goligoski each have at least seven points and all three are in a position to reach 60.
The Pens seem to be playing into that idea, using the rearguards not just to get the puck up the ice, but also on a mobile power play. Goligoski has acted as a rover of sorts, moving from one side of the blueline to the other and even up to the side of the net as the play warrants. It’s early yet, but so far it looks as though the owners of these three defensemen will be rewarded with 15 points or so more than expected by season’s end…
Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell is a skilled forward with underrated vision. He’s showing this so far with five assists in seven games. However, he has bounced around from the second to the third line and his linemates and ice time have changed from game to game. He is a high-risk, moderate-reward player who could surprise us all with as many as 55 points. But his ice time declined between Games 2 and 6 (in order: 16 minutes, 15, 14, 13 and then 11:28 ) before playing 13:06 Friday night, which is a red flag. But he’s worth a waiver-wire gamble to see how things play out…
I’ve used the “Matt Moulson” comparison to the P-A Parenteau often enough and so far it’s holding true. Last year, Moulson had 18 points in the first 21 games and finished with 30 in the next 61 in what was a small tail-off. Look for the same from Parenteau this year with the Islanders. Both are former American League high-scoring journeymen who just needed a legitimate shot at an NHL top-six job.
Johan Harju nearly made Tampa’s roster, but the team felt he would be best served getting top minutes in the AHL for Norfolk over depth minutes and occasional scratches in the NHL. So far he’s adapting quite well to the North American game, tallying six points in four contests. Harju had a successful start to his career in Sweden before struggling last season in the Kontinental League. His upside is that of a second-line complimentary player, so you could see him get a game or two in on Vincent Lecavalier’s line in February or March.
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