1. Daniel Sprong’s first full season?
Jim Rutherford stated that this year, Sprong should be a “regular” on the roster. Sprong put up 65 points in 65 games (32 goals) last season in Wilkes-Barre. In his call up, he showed flashes of that offensive upside on a line with Sidney Crosby.
Where will he play? Expect a top-9 spot for Sprong and some time on the 2nd power play unit. Personally, I would like to see how he’d perform on the top line with Crosby and Jake Guentzel.
2. The Jack Johnson signing
This July, the Penguins signed Johnson to a 5-year contract, paying him $3,250,000 per. There was a lot of controversy around this signing, as Johnson hasn’t had the best couple years performance wise. In 77 games with Columbus last year, Johnson had 11 points and was a minus-6. I expect him to play on the 3rd pairing, with Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin playing above him.
Last summer, the Penguins gave up a king’s ransom for their eventual 3rd-line center Derick Brassard. He would go on to put up 8 points in 12 games in the regular season for Pittsburgh. That’s not bad production for Brassard. He had a dismal playoff performance with only 4 points in 12 games.
I expect Brassard to have a better season next year on the 3rd line. At least 40 points wouldn’t be an out of the ordinary prediction for him.
4. Matt Murray
This past season was rough for Murray. In 49 games played, he had a .907 save percentage and a 2.92 goals against average. The playoffs weren’t so bright for Murray either as he had a .908 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. To put this in perspective, his regular season save percentage is tied for 39th in the league among goalies.
Murray has said that he’s trying to fix the imperfections in his game this summer. He’s training to be a “more well-rounded goaltender” for next year. Will he have a better season next year? Only time will tell.
5. Kris Letang back to 100%
In April 2017, Letang had neck surgery for a herniated disk which kept him out for the 2017 playoff run. Obviously a major surgery had a negative impact on Letang. He had a mediocre year for his standards last year with 51 points in 79 games. He also was a minus-9. Those are pretty good numbers for an NHL defenseman. In comparison to his 2016-17 year, he had 0.82 points per game. This year he had 0.64 points per game.
Letang has said that he feels “a million times better” in comparison to last year. That is fantastic news for Penguins fans, as Letang can be a real threat when he’s on top of his game.
PHOTO: Mike Sullivan will be at the helm of the team for his second full season (third overall) behind the bench for the Penguins. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)