By Ryan Lang
Photo Credit- Tribune Review
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 wingers go on the clock:
Jake Guentzel - 5’11” 180 LBS
Guentzel was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Penguins and will miss several games to start the season due to offseason ankle surgery. The Pens will have to find a way to overcome his loss. Guentzel has scored 76 goals combined in the past two seasons, and will be a big part of the Sidney Crosby line this season when he returns from injury.
Reilly Smith - 6’1” 182 LBS
Smith was drafted in 2009 by the Dallas Stars in the 3rd round and played for the Vegas GoldenKnights from 2017 up until this past season. The Penguins gave the Knights a 2024 third round pick in exchange for Smith this offseason and he will likely take over for Jason Zucker on Evgeni Malkin’s 2nd line.
Matt Nieto - 5’11” 185 LBS
Nieto was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2011 draft. The 11-year veteran has played with both Colorado and San Jose and adds a grinding style, which could benefit the Penguins bottom six. Nieto signed a two-year deal this offseason with the Penguins, and should fit in nicely on the third line and bring his speed to the team’s penalty killing unit.
Rem Pitlick - 5’11” 196 LBS
Pitlick was drafted in the 3rd round by the Predators in the 2016 NHL draft and has played 5 years in the NHL. His progression has been stymied with injuries, but the Pens acquired him as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. He can also play center and will be a versatile piece Mike Sullivan can use in different situations, including penalty killing assignments.
Drew O’Connor - 6’3” 200 LBS
O’Connor is an undrafted free agent that has made a name for himself in the past couple seasons. The Penguins rewarded him by signing him to a two-year extension. O’Connor, only 25-years-old, has shown some skill and will likely fill a bottom six role for the team.
Andreas Johnsson - 5’10” 195 LBS
Johnsson was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 7th round of the 2013 NHL draft. He spent last season playing 11 games with the Sharks. The Penguins picked him up this offseason and he will be battling for a bottom 6 spot, adding both depth and much needed speed at the position.
Radim Zohorna - 6’6” 220 LBS
Zohorna started his career with the Penguins in 2020 where he played 8 games. He spent last season with the Flames and Maple Leafs but still only played 10 games total. The Penguins re-signed him to a one year contract this offseason and they are hoping he can be a quality callup during the season in case of injury. He brings size and should be seen as a Quad A role player.
Bryan Rust - 5’11” 192 LBS
Rust was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Penguins and since then has been a big part of the Penguins dynastic success. He’s a fixture in the team’s top six and signed a six-year extension before the start of last season. Although he had a down year in 2022, he will be looked upon to be a huge part of this team’s top two lines, power play and penalty kill units. He still has elite speed and can change a game in a moment's notice.
Rickard Rakell - 6’1” 195 LBS
Rakell was drafted in the 1st round of the 2011 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks. In March of 2022 the Penguins acquired him from the Ducks for Zach Aston-Reese, Dominic Simon, goalie prospect Calle Clang and a 2022 second round pick. He played his first full season with the Penguins last season and scored 60 points. He will be counted on to be a consistent scorer on one of the top two lines, bringing a sniper’s mentality and providing depth on the power play.
Alex Nylander - 6’1” 192 LBS
Nylander was drafted in 2016 in the 1st round by the Buffalo Sabres. He played his first 3 years with Buffalo before joining the Blackhawks. The Penguins gave up Sam Lafferty in return for Alex Nylander in January of 2022. This offseason they re-signed him to a one-year deal and he will likely be battling for a spot on the third or fourth line. At times last season he showed why he was a #1 draft pick with his game IQ and skating ability.
Noel Acciari - 5’10” 209 LBS
Acciari went undrafted and started his career with the Boston Bruins. During his 9 seasons in the NHL he has yet to score 30 points in a season, and the Penguins more than likely signed him for his sandpaper style of play. The Penguins signed him to a 3-year contract and his versatility and penalty killing will be a huge help in 2023.
Vinnie Hinostroza - 5’10” 177 LBS
Hinostroza was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL draft. He signed a one-year deal with the Penguins this offseason after spending the previous two years with the Sabres. Kyle Dubas has given the Penguins a bunch of options for their bottom 6, and worst case scenario, Hinostroza will be a capable call up during the season.
Draft 412 Analysis
The Penguins have more depth at the wing position than they have in the past several seasons. With Guentzel. Rust, Rackell, and Smith, the Pens are set at wing in their top six. If Nylander and O’Connor can keep improving, the Penguins could see more scoring production from their bottom six than they’ve seen in several years.