Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Pittsburgh Penguins
For the last 15 years (12 with The Hockey News, last year’s via pinch-hitter Cam Robinson) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 16th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – Moving the three forwards frees up room for a couple of prospect graduations, and moving Hunwick and Sheary freed up the cap room to bring in Johnson and re-sign the surprising Jamie Oleksiak. Cullen upgrades Rowney on the checking line in terms of both talent and health, and the arrivals of Grant and Hayes were depth moves that make great fill-ins in the event that a prospect or two thought ready ends up needing more AHL time. It’s been a quiet offseason for the recent two-time Cup champs, but the moves that were made certainly help.
Ready for full-time – Cullen will take Rowney’s spot, but at this point nobody has Kuhnhackl’s or Sheary’s spot in the roster. Grant and Hayes are there to fill in and prospects can certainly steal those jobs from them and are expected to do just that. Zach Aston-Reese, Daniel Sprong and Dominic Simon are champing at the bit.
Aston-Reese is a Hornqvist clone. He’s a Hit machine and he has Hornqvist upside for production. But the team already has a Hornqvist and ZAR has to prove that he can belong on a lower line. He can be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers so he has to redouble his efforts. (Scouting report on Aston-Reese here)
Sprong has to clear waivers to be sent down, so he’s on the team for sure. He’ll never clear. His value is on a scoring line so expectations are high. He’s already seen time with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin so he knows the pace that is needed. Still, there will be growing pains – Sprong is by no means a blue-chipper, he’s just the most talented out of a weaker crop of prospect forwards in the organization. It’s safe to pencil him in for 35 points with upside for a lot more. (Scouting report on Sprong here)
Simon held on for a one-way deal and he got it. Two years at $750,000 per season. He also saw time on the Crosby line and on the Malkin line – that’s pretty much how it goes with any prospect forward who gets a sniff of the NHL in Pittsburgh. But he later proved his value on the third and fourth line as a responsible player. He’s lower on the totem pole than both Aston-Reese, who provides better scoring ability and more grit, and Sprong, who has the highest offensive upside. (Scouting report on Simon here)
The backup goaltending job this year is important because we all saw what happened last year – Matt Murray was injured and had a tough time getting back into to form (and honestly – did he ever get back to form?). Tristan Jarry is the top goaltender in the organization aside from Murray, but he can be sent down without clearing waivers and he could use the added workload that he would get in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. So the backup job will go to Casey DeSmith, who performed admirably in 14 appearances last season. Murray is an injury risk and if he gets hurt Jarry will be recalled for the majority of starts. But DeSmith will be used to sub in here and there as the No.2.
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – The Penguins were fourth in NHL scoring and will always be a candidate for the Top 5 for as long as they have both Crosby and Malkin. This team has been an ‘A’ in fantasy for as long as I can remember and that won’t change this year. Any time a prospect is recalled he gets a look on one of those top lines and any time a forward is traded to this team fantasy owners are happy. The pipeline has gone from weak to dreadful over the past year, but they’re showing that they just need one or two youngsters to blossom each season and they’re happy.
Fantasy Grade: A (last year was A+)
Other Offseason Fantasy Outlooks:
- Ramblings: Revisiting Goalie Situations in Pittsburgh, Arizona, and Columbus (Jan 24)
- Ramblings: Cholowski recalled; Koivu returns; looking back on preseason thoughts - January 23
- Forum Buzz: Nylander or DeBrincat, Hold or Sell Huberdeau, Can Trocheck Rebound?
- Injury Ward: Updates on Rask, Hamilton, Panarin, Tarasenko, and more
- Ramblings: Skills Competition, Questions on Hughes vs. Dahlin, Hintz, Gibson (Jan 25)
- Looking Ahead: Danault, Habs Worth Targeting
- Capped: All-Star cap league team
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Malkin and the Giant IPPeach