Monday, September 27, 2010

Training Camp Update

So the Pens are through the first half of their 6 preseason games and are perfect to this point. That means nothing once October 7th arrives.

What you can pay attention to between now and then is the roster situation. The Pens opened camp with 57 players (33 forwards, 17 defense and 7 goalies). They are currently down to 41 players. The maximum they can open the season with is 23.

There is expected to be another round of cuts after the final home exhibition game tomorrow night against Chicago, leaving them with the last two games to tune up and figure out those final roster spots.

There are some interesting battles going on, not only on the blue line to see who can make the roster, but also with the forwards, to see who will play on the top two lines.

First, on defense, there are 5 spots locked down. Those belong to: Orpik, Martin, Michalek, Letang and Goligoski. There are, according to the official blog, five guys fighting with a realistic chance at the last two spots (the Pens website assume they'll carry 7 defense): Lovejoy, Engelland, Potter, Hutchinson and Wagner. All five guys are on two-way contracts.

My money is on Lovejoy for the #6 spot, just based on my own opinion. I think he brings a well-rounded game that would be well suited for the #6 spot on the blue line. Also keep in mind that Lovejoy is only on a two-way contract for this year. He's a one-way guy for the next two seasons. You want him to be in your lineup for sure next season.

I'm not sure that they'll carry seven D-men, namely because a guy on a two-way contract costs less when he's in the minors. I could see them doing it if they wanted to keep Despres around like they did with Kris Letang a few years back. Simon could stay with the big club up to 7 games before he needed to be returned to his junior team. While I think it could be great experience for Despres, the Pens don't really need him - they have several viable alternatives for the sixth (and maybe seventh) spot.

Up front, things are much messier. With Staal out for at least several games to open the season, that really opens the floodgates on the top two lines. Obviously you pencil Sid and Geno in the middle on each one, with Kunitz on a wing (likely with Sid). Beyond those three, anything goes. The players likely in the battle for a top 6 spot include: Dupuis, Kennedy, Comrie, Tangradi, Letestu, Talbot and Sterling (who I only add because if the Pens keep him, I can't imagine it being for a fourth line spot).

I like Dupuis, Comrie and Tangradi for the final three spots. Dupuis showed some goal scoring touch last year, and he certainly has the speed. Comrie has been a good offensive player in the past and has something to prove. Tangradi wants to show that he's the prospect the Pens hope he is.

In the last six forward spots, I'd expect Kennedy, Cooke, Asham, Adams, Talbot and Rupp for certain. Maybe you keep Letestu as your third line center, though I'm not sure he has the speed for that role. He certainly knows the system and can win faceoffs. Ryan Craig has been getting some press for his good play so far too. Godard is your scratch whenever the Flyers aren't in the other bench.

There are a bunch of young forward prospects that would love to get some time in the NHL on a regular basis, and there's really just no room on this roster for them. That means that Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Joe Vitale and Tim Wallace will have another year down on the farm, waiting for a call. I hope something works out for those guys (or that I'm wrong), especially for Wallace who managed 27 goals last year in Wilkes-Barre.

Any way you look at it, the next week will certainly be interesting.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome in the comments.

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