Rinks are iced, training camps are underway, and the Pittsburgh Penguins soon to take the ice as the 2022 preseason is just about here.
As the NHL prepares for face off of the 2022-23 season, there is plenty for fans to look out for as the Penguins preseason begins.
With a large majority last seasons roster returning, there are next to no position or lineup battles to be had through camp and preseason.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall sees things differently, however, as he says some players are fighting for jobs at camp.
“There’s a lot of hunger and there’s going to be a fight for some jobs.”
Prospects Need to Prove Worth
One fight being had is the battle between young forward prospects looking to make their name known in the NHL.
For a certain few prospects like Sam Poulin and PO Joseph, its put up or shut up time.
Not a knock on the players, but it’s up to the organization to recognize their talents; and how will the organization take notice?
By having a fantastic preseason performance, of course.
Nathan Legare and Poulin are in similar boats being they have been prospects in the organization for so long they are more than deserving of their fair shake in the NHL.
They’ve both excelled through rookie and professional training camps and will look to continue their progression during preseason action.
Joseph is another player facing a similar situation, but he’s fighting against a new arrival who is likely to have an upper hand.
Ty Smith brings with him 114 games of NHL experience and should use that to his advantage over Joseph’s 20.
The Penguins have a good problem with multiple NHL options between Joseph and Smith; but the former needs to prove he is worthy of the NHL.
Veterans Staying Hungry
Despite Evgeni Malkin quipping that he and his peers are still young, the Penguins core group have to remain hungry for the ultimate goal.
Everyone always talks about the goal being another Stanley Cup and to continue to win, but with multiple first round outages from the postseason, more needs to be shown.
The Penguins decided to retain their core guys in Malkin and Kris Letang, rather than pivoting the focus to a new crop.
The front office showed faith in their guys and everyone believes this group can still win together.
The veteran players like Malkin, Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Jeff Carter may not see much ice in preseason, but when they do they should look as hungry as ever.
“I didn’t worry about age when I was 18 and I’m not going to start at 35,” Crosby said. “I just want to win. It’s always been about winning.”
The veterans will have a lot to prove and it would be unwise to count out this group.
Can the Penguins Stay Healthy?
This is more of a problem to watch for in the regular season, but there has already been an injury to report.
Carter left a training camp scrimmage early with an upper-body injury and the only word has been that he is being evaluated.
With no solid timetable on Carter’s return, what does that do for the lineup? Who steps in to take that roster spot?
Radim Zohonra has made great strides in camp, showing to have gained a step of speed while gaining more time as a center.
With 25 games of NHL experience and standing at 6’6”, Zohonra makes a case for a short term replacement at center.
Any sort of game action opens the threat of injuries, but the Penguins will need to stay out of the trainer’s room this season to maintain success.
That all starts by getting through preseason with as few bumps and bruises as possible.
It’s time to get excited, Pittsburgh hockey is just about back with the start of Penguins preseason.
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