Pittsburgh Penguins(2nd Metropolitan Division, 50-21-11): After back-to-back Stanley Cup seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins are arguably one of the more successful teams in the NHL. With three Stanley Cup victories in eight seasons, the Penguins continue to become one of the more “disliked” teams in the NHL as well. With a roster filled with star power and depth, the Penguins have edged their way into NHL history. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the best forwards in the NHL the Penguins have plenty years of success left in them. Although after losing Ron Hainsey and four time Stanley Cup winner Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and fan favorite Marc Andre Fleury, the Penguins roster ranks up a bit different next season.
With a few key pieces departing this off-season, the Penguins still have Malkin, Crosby, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary and Matt Murray. Much of their past success was centered around these seven guys among a few other key pieces the Penguins have the core players they need to remain atop the Metropolitan division. But is a down year in store for Pittsburgh? A less prominent regular season, could the Penguins be a middle of the pack team? Well with these five guys still rostered, they’ll be relied upon heavily by head coach Mike Sullivan.
- Sidney Crosby: That one was obvious and let’s get that out of the way. Crosby is the best player in the NHL and after a 44 goal and 89 point season at age 29-years-old, Crosby will be the Penguins forefront for many years. A prominent career filled with trophies, accomplishments, and record breaking numbers, Crosby has no plan on slowing down at age 30. With Sheary re-signed, the two will reunite for another successful season on the Penguins front end.
- Evgeni Malkin: Another obvious one, the Penguins roster is difficult to pinpoint and say five guys will make or break this team, especially with Kessel, Guentzel, Sheary, Hornqvist still on the front end the Penguins front end is deep. But Malkin is still expected to lead this on the power play and offensively every season. After 72 points through 62 games and 33 goals last season Malkin will yet again perform with that same efficiency. A full 82 games under his belt the 31-year-old Russian superstar will push this Penguins team deep into the playoffs yet again.
- Justin Schultz: After “failing” in Edmonton Schultz got claimed by Pittsburgh two years ago, after missing much of the 2015-16 season the right handed slick skating defenseman bounced back last season, producing 51 points in 78 games, with 39 assists and 20 powerplay points. Schultz was re-signed to a hefty extension and is now locked in Pittsburgh for 3 more years. Schultz’s success last season put him on the board among many great NHL defenseman. Schultz’s will be expected to lead this power play once again and be the backbone of Pittsburgh defense especially with an injury ridden Kris Letang.
- Kris Letang: HOPEFULLY, Letang can remain healthy and if healthy Letang is a top defenseman in the NHL. Letang’s numbers when healthy are among the best in the league, during 2015-16, Letang posted 67 points in 71 games and in 2014-15 posted, 54 points in 69 games. Letang has been injury ridden for much of his career, but expecting to recover fully and be ready for the Penguins start of the season, the Penguins will rely heavily on the 30-year-old defenseman on both the defensive side and offensive side of the puck.
- Matt Murray: The biggest story of the 2015-16 season was Matt Murray’s playoff performance after stealing the job from Fleury last season during the Conference finals and going onto to win his second cup in two seasons, the Penguins 23-year-old 3rd round pick has emerged as a top goalie in the NHL. With Fleury gone, it’s rightfully so just Murray this season handling all duties in the crease. Murray’s career numbers through 62 games, is a 41-12 record, 2.32 GAA and .925 save percentage. Much of the Penguins success will be mirrored off of how Murray performs in the crease.