by Ryan Lang
Photo courtesy of NHL.com.
Training camp is a month away for the Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Kyle Dubas has given the team a much needed facelift. Many of the new players will be foreign to fans in early October, but many mainstays return for a run at the Cup in 2024. Draft 412 will take a deeper look at each position, its depth and potential.
Today, the Penguins' centers go on the clock:
Sidney Crosby - 5’11” 200 lbs.
Ever since the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005, he has been the face of this franchise. He played in all 82 games last season, scoring 93 points and consistently played the most complete game of any Pens forward. Now 36-years-old, Sid can still take over a game and be the leader the Penguins need to get back to a championship level.
Evgeni Malkin - 6’3” 195 lbs.
Evgeni Malkin was selected 2nd in the 2004 NHL Draft, and after only playing 74 games the past two seasons, Malkin laced them up all 82 times in 2022-2023. Last season, he looked more like the Evgeni of old and was a force to be reckoned with on the second line. His play going into last season was seen as spotty and inconsistent compared to the #71 Penguins fans have been used to seeing. If the Penguins can get 75 plus games from him this season, it will go a long way to getting the Pens back in the playoffs.
Jeff Carter - 6’3” 219 lbs.
Carter was drafted 11th overall in 2003 by the Philadelphia Flyers, and wax obtained by the Penguins in April of 2021 from the Los Angeles Kings for several conditional draft picks. After scoring nine goals in his first 14 games for Penguins, he was awarded a 2-year extension by then-GM Ron Hextall. After signing the extension his play in Pittsburgh, Carter’s play has dramatically gotten worse. Now stuck with the contract, all the Penguins can hope for is a resurgence in 2023, which is highly unlikely by the 3rd line center.
Lars Eller - 6’2” 205 lbs.
Eller was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Blues. Eller spent last season with the Capitals before signing a two-year deal with the Penguins this offseason. Barring any trades or injuries, Eller should enter the season as their fourth line center. Eller gives the team a strong defensive presence and much needed veteran experience on the 4th line and will be a big part of the penalty kill unit. Depending on Jeff Carter’s play, Draft 412 would not be surprised to see Eller and Carter flip spots.
Joona Koppanen - 6’5” 195 lbs.
Koppanen was a 5th round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2015 and has been primarily a minor league player except for the 5 games he played this past season. He is a high energy player that could get called up to help fill in for an injury. Koppanen is a large bodied forward who could be a nice anchor on the 4th line if needed.
Samuel Poulin- 6’1” 208 lbs.
Drafted 21st overall in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Penguins, Samuel Poulin has had trouble reaching top prospect status like the Penguins hoped. He has scored 20 goals in 87 AHL games over the past two seasons, and played in 3 games in 2022-2023 for the Penguins, notching an assist. Poulin is more of a dart throw for the team and his prospects for ice time in 2023 will depend on his mental health and ability to adjust to the NHL game.
Draft 412 Analysis
The Penguins still have a formidable duo to lead the team down the middle with Crosby and Malkin. They need Jeff Carter to find the fountain of youth and become that 3rd line center that can win faceoffs and produce consistently. Lars Eller should help with depth and special teams, improving the overall play of the Pens' bottom six.