Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Pittsburgh #Penguins
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. My 14th 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.
Incoming – David Warsofsky
Impact of changes – Not a lot was done this summer and not much could have been done. The Penguins sit with the second highest cap hit in the entire league, and even putting Pascal Dupuis on the LTIR would only get them down to around where the cap is at. Keeping/signing two key players that they were going to lose (Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz) were only afforded because it cost a combined $2.4 million.
The Penguins just won the Stanley Cup and they managed practically zero turnover. Once coach Mike Sullivan took over mid-2015-16, the offense was re-discovered (and became quite prolific, relatively speaking in this era). Status quo is probably a good thing.
Ready for full-time – Matt Murray didn’t do a lot to earn a spot this year, unless you consider carrying the team past the mighty Washington Capitals in the postseason and then backstopping them to a Stanley Cup win “a lot”. In all seriousness, the AHL All-Star is an elite prospect and now he’s a proven NHL winner. And between that, the cap situation, and next year’s expansion draft – and suddenly Marc-Andre Fleury is quite expendable. But Fleury still gets paid the big bucks and is still a top goaltender in the NHL with a long track record, so until a trade actually takes place look for Fleury to get about 65 percent of the starts. It’s only for one season (at most). Then Murray will be the No.1 guy.
Conor Sheary played 44 games for the Pens last season, but I’ll include him here because otherwise this article would be too short! Speaking of short…nah, too easy. Anyway, the 5-8 Sheary was leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in scoring when he was called up in December. With minimal ice time he posted 10 points with the big club, but it was in the postseason when things really fell into place. He managed to keep up with Sidney Crosby, though he was at times knocked off the puck. He still managed 10 points in 23 games. It’s something to build on, but if he doesn’t take the next step he will hold no fantasy value at all on the third or fourth line. (Read more on Sheary here)
Tom Kuhnhackl played 42 games last season and proved to be a very reliable defensive forward. And because he has a bit of an offensive touch he’s been a threat to score on the penalty kill – so Sullivan likes to use him there on the second unit. He’s found his niche and he’s good at it, so his fantasy impact going forward will be minimal. (Read more on Kuhnhackl here)
Derrick Pouliot has elite puck-moving potential. And even though fantasy owners have been disappointed to date, they have to remember that he’s still just 22 years old and that the Penguins are being very careful with him. Last year Pouliot was used very sparingly when he was up with the big club, but he did nothing to shake our confidence in him – seven points in 22 games getting bottom-pairing ice time is actually pretty impressive. The re-signing of Justin Schultz and the return to health of Trevor Daley will continue to keep him lower down the lineup. But his time will come, especially when you consider Kris Letang’s injury history. (Read more on Pouliot here)
Fantasy Outlook – As always, this team will get an A. As the only team in the league with the potential to have two 110-point players, that's just a given because the skaters around them also get production boosts. Phil Kessel and a healthy Kris Letang makes the potential numbers of about 10 Pittsburgh Penguins just ridiculous.
The prospect pipeline is still terrible. But there are a couple of boom-or-bust forward prospects (of the same ilk as Sheary) who could turn into something. With this NHL roster still relatively young, I have zero issues with that as a fantasy owner.
Fantasy Grade: A (last year was A)
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