The Pittsburgh Penguins did quite a bit of soul searching this summer after being ousted once again in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The team lacked depth at forward, which cost them dearly in the second season. After having traded center Evgeni Malkin’s running linemates, James Neal and Jussi Jokinen, the team needs to find a new winger or two for Malkin if they want to move forward. Coach Mike Johnston has a few ideas.
“I know [Chris] Kunitz and [Sidney] Crosby play well together, so that’s a good pair,” Johnston told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Both Jokinen and Neal are gone, so I’ve got to find a good fit for [second-line center Evgeni Malkin]. That will be very important early.”
The team has relied heavily on wingers Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz in the past, but both typically play with Crosby. For now, the coaching staff needs some fresh legs to play with Malkin.
One such candidate could be Patric Hornqvist, who was acquired in the Neal trade. Hornqvist has four 20-goal seasons to his credit in low-scoring Nashville so it stands to reason he’ll get a good shot at a top six winger slot. “Hornqvist will be a guy we’ll watch closely in camp,” Johnston confirmed.
Other names for the spots next to Malkin include youngster Beau Bennett and Kasperi Kapanen, who are among the less proven options for the team, but certainly possess the raw skill necessary to keep up with one of the best centers in the world.