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Projections for Each Penguins Defensemen

What can the new look Pittsburgh Penguins defense accomplish this season?

The Pittsburgh Penguins revamped their defense this summer, sending standout Mike Matheson and young defenseman John Marino in separate deals. In return, they brought in another veteran standout in Jeff Petry and 22-year-old Ty Smith.

Add the rugged Jan Rutta via free agency, and the Penguin's back end has a new look and identity. With so many newcomers to the team, let's take a moment to project what each defenseman will do this season.

Kris Letang

The leader of this defensive group is a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate after his resurgent season last year. Fresh off of a six-year contract extension that should see him finish his career in the black and gold, Letang should be motivated to build off of last season's success. If healthy, there is good reason to believe he will put up the same or more points than last season.

Projection: 12 goals, 53 assists, 65 points.

Brian Dumoulin

No one had a more disappointing season on defense than Brian Dumoulin. He's been solid as a rock since his arrival in Pittsburgh, but he struggled in all areas last year. Was he hurt? Has his lack of speed at age 30 become too much of an issue?

This season is make or break for Dumoulin, with his contract set to expire after this upcoming season. Expect his defensive game to return to form as he returns for a possible last season next to partner Kris Letang, but keep offensive hopes low.

Projection: 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points.

Jeff Petry

After leaving the basement-dwelling Canadiens for the bright lights of Pittsburgh, Jeff Petry is out to prove he is still a bonafide top 4 defenseman. He posted four straight 40-point seasons before he regressed this past season. Rejuvenated by his trade, Petry will approach the 40-point version of himself.

Projection: 10 goals, 28 assists, 38 points

Ty Smith

There's plenty to like about Ty Smith's game. He can easily bounce back from his disappointing sophomore season with the support of the Penguins coaching staff and the leadership cohort of players. Smith's speed and offensive instinct should mesh seamlessly with the up-tempo offensive helping him put up career-high numbers.

Projection: 6 goals, 23 assists, 29 points

Jan Rutta

The Penguins have only one intention for Jan Rutta: defend the net. His presence on the team is to bulk up their penalty kill and shore up the back line. Don't expect an offensive explosion from him.

Projection: 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points

Marcus Pettersson

Often receiving an unnecessary amount of hate and the subject of trade rumors, Marcus Pettersson has quietly become a steady defensive player. Offense is not a large part of his skill set, but he is an excellent chance suppressor while posting nearly 20 points annually. Projected to be partnered with Jeff Petry, Petersson will allow Petry to take more offensive chances. Pettersson should see his defensive metrics stay atop the best in the league, and he will also continue to be the punching bag of the media and fans' frustrations.

Projections: 3 goals, 15 assists, 18 points

PO Joseph

On the bubble for a permanent spot, PO Joseph is looking to graduate to the NHL level this season. He has certainly outgrown Wilkes-Barre, but can he outplay the likes of Smith, Pettersson, Mark Friedman, and Chad Ruhwedel? The upside and potential are enticing, and his skating is already silky-smooth, but his consistency is the biggest question mark.

Projection 3 goals, 7 assists, and 10 points over 45-50 games.

Mark Friedman, Chad Ruhwedel

The final two players on the NHL roster are a pair of complementary 7th defensemen. Chad Ruhwedel was rock solid as the Penguins' 6th defenseman last season, posting 13 points over 78 games. He knows his role and excels at it.

Similarly, Mark Friedman has consistently brought energy and tenacity every night he is in the lineup. Also ideally suited to be a bottom pairing defenseman, he registered 5 points in 26 games this past season.

With the bottom pairing revamped with the addition of Jan Rutta and the battle between PO Joseph and Ty Smith, Friedman and Ruhwedel figure to be the odd men out. They will be the injury replacements or fill out the lineup if the Penguins deal another defenseman.

Projections: Ruhwedel:1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, in less than 40 games

Friedman: 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points in 25 games.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have an exciting crop of defensemen with much higher expectations than in seasons past. Hopefully, the new additions can excel in the black and gold and boost this defensive corps. Let's check back later in the season to see how close these projections were. 

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