The Penguins season was certainly a rollercoaster for them. From GM Jim Rutherford sending away many key players and acquiring some more, to getting swept by the Islanders in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins made a total of nine trades in the season to turn the ship around.
2018-19 Record (44-26-12) 100 points
Season MVP: Sidney Crosby
Without a doubt in my mind, Sidney Crosby is the Season MVP, and it really isn"t close. We all don"t need an introduction to him. Two league-wide MVP"s, two Art Ross", two Rocket Richards, two Conn Smythes, and three Stanley Cups. This was his sixth season with 100 points. A 55.4% in the face-off circle, Crosby dominated his game. Although, something new surfaced in fans" minds this year, a Selke. He never made it to the finalists for 2019, but he ranked fourth in voting for it. It was a great season with 35 goals and 65 assists for him. Only four players had more points than Crosby and he only played 79 games. It"s safe to say, Crosby is one of the best “all-around" players in the game, and he deserves the season MVP for the Pens.
Most Improved Player: Jake Guentzel
It must be easy playing with one of the best hockey players in the NHL, just ask Jake Guentzel. It isn"t a secret that Crosby is rubbing off on him. Guentzel jumped from 48 points in the 2017-18 campaign to 76 in the 2018-19 campaign, a 28 point difference. 18 more goals and 10 more assists than last season. He commonly plays on the top line with Crosby and plays power play minutes. In my eyes, Guentzel is an emerging star in the game that is taking after Crosby. The sky is the limit for him. I wouldn"t be surprised if he hits 80 points.
Disappointment: Jack Johnson
Holding an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $3.5 million for the next three years, many fans were not too pleased about the signing of now depth defenseman, Jack Johnson. Some fans were quick to pick up the fact that Johnson and Crosby played juniors together and were a part of the same draft class. There were some hits and misses. Johnson at third wasn"t terrible, but he never lived up to the high hopes. That being said, Johnson played all 82 games this season. He racked up one goal and 12 assists for 13 points. He gave the puck away 32 times and just didn"t look good in general. This signing was not what the Penguins wanted or needed.
Highlight of the Year
credit to CapFriendly
Top Three Prospects
- Calen Addison– Addison is a solid two-way defenseman chosen in the second round, 53rd overall in 2018. Last year in the Western Hockey League for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Addison put up 11 goals and 65 points in 67 games. He got a tiny taste of the American Hockey League, playing three games and putting up two assists.
- Pierre-Olivier Joseph– POJ was acquired in the Kessel trade, coming back to Pittsburgh along with Alex Galchenyuk. The former first round draft pick back in 2017 of the Arizona Coyotes, is putting together a solid season for a defenseman in the QMJHL for the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He had two goals and 20 assists in 35 games for them. He plays well defensively and should be a good player for a while for the Pens.
- Tristan Jarry– To me, Jarry is still considered a prospect, despite playing a solid handful of NHL games. In Wilkes-Barre Scranton, the AHL affiliate for the Penguins, Jarry played 47 games and went 23-23-3 with a .915 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.66 goals-against-average (GAA). Those are some good numbers for a 24 year old. In the NHL, Jarry has gone 14-8-3 with a .906 SV% and a 2.84 GAA. We will wait to see how good he will play in a full season in the NHL.
Players Poised for Breakout:
- Marcus Pettersson– Has a strong defensive game and will save the puck off the goal line. He should play in the top four and put up points.
- Alex Galchenyuk- Acquired from the Coyotes, if he is on a line with Evgeni Malkin or Crosby, he will be able to put his beautiful shot to use.
- Kris Letang– General Manager Jimmy Rutherford said at one point this offseason that he"d be open to trading long-time defenseman Kris Letang to either improve his team now or for the future.
- Jack Johnson- As of August 5th, the Penguins have less than $200,000 in cap space and need to sign defenseman Marcus Pettersson. Jack Johnson might be a likely source for a cap dump.
Losing Kessel and the possibility of losing Letang is really going to hurt. Now that the Metropolitan Division is getting harder, it will be tougher for the Penguins to make a run at the postseason.
- Picks and Prospects- The Eastern conference is not getting any easier and most of the Penguins lineup isn"t exactly young. If they decide to make a Letang trade, they should only take young players or picks to build for the future.
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