*This is the first part of a three-part series on how the Pittsburgh Penguins can address roster inadequacies internally*
In his post-season press conference, Pittsburgh Penguins’ General Manager Jim Rutherford addressed many things. From underscoring the point that the team ?s ?core-four ? of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury are going nowhere to standing firmly behind his coach. He even addressed his position in Pittsburgh, which media had called into question of late saying he ?s planning on staying ?12 more years. ? About the line-up and changes he ?d like to make, the GM said he ?s got the go-ahead to buy out players from ownership but focused, instead, on it being time for the youth movement to come to Pittsburgh saying, ?We ?d like to get more speed in our lineup ?we would like to get some of these younger players started. Some of that young energy will help. ?
So that ?s just what we will examine in the next three weeks. Each week, focusing on a different position — forward, goal, and defense — where the Penguins can get help from their young guys and just who those young guys might be.
The forward position depth for the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a point of contention since the day they took Joe Morrow over Brandon Saad and perhaps since before then. However, there are three great options who should, barring something insane, will make the leap to full-time NHL duty as well as a few who have an outside shot.
- KASPERI KAPANEN ? RW
Kapanen was taken 22nd overall by Rutherford (following a tumble from a projected top-15 pick) as his first-ever selection as the Penguins’ GM and he ?s looking like a great one so far. Undersized but still not into his second decade, the Finnish prospect was one of the last players cut before this season. He spent the bulk of the season with KalPa in Finland and has made a splash for the Penguins American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with three goals and four points in a three-game sweep of the Syracuse Crunch in the first round.
Kapanen is the kind of player who could and should play in the top-6. Known for his strong hand-eye coordination, he has a tricky shot and quick skating legs that are just what the Penguins need. Evgeni Malkin could very well see the Finnish youngster on his right side next season.
- OSKAR SUNDQVIST ? LW/C
Sundqvist was one of Ray Shero ?s forward selections, coming to the local club at 81st overall in the third round of the 2012 draft. The Sweden native played amongst men in the Swedish hockey league before coming over last weekend to join Kapanen and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His big frame is something the Penguins, a fairly undersized team at the NHL, could certainly benefit from adding and his skillset as a center and winger make him a versatile addition.
Sundqvist is a big guy with size to spare who plays on the edge. Not afraid to get into his opponents faces he would do well under the guidance of a guy like fellow countrymen, Patric Hornqvist, who makes his living making life for the other team hell in close. Look for him to add upside on the second or third line as the team uses him as a left-wing while grooming his game before potentially setting him free as a center later.
- BOBBY FARNHAM ? RW
Farnham is hardly an unknown to Penguins fans and to many is already a household name. Made famous as part of the Steve Downie ?Bash Brothers ? duo, Farnham is more likely to muck it out on the boards and stand up for his teammates than score goals. However, with Downie ?s one-year deal ending and Farnham able to provide the same toughness with a touch of offense upside, it is high time the Penguins let Farnham roam free.
Look for Farnham to make his home in the bottom-six next year. If the Penguins bring back Lapierre, those two would be a menace to play against for a nice cheap price tag allowing them to splurge in other areas, potentially in looking for another top-6 winger.
The Next Three
After those three the Penguins have a handful of other options on the cusp who could surprise and make the opening night roster. JAYSON MEGNA, who has played parts of three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, may not have the most beautiful puck handling skills but he ?s fleet of foot, led the Wilkes-Barre Penguins in goals with 26 in 2014-2015, and could be a great addition to the bottom-six.
SCOTT WILSON is a player the organization is very high on and only missed the cut for the top three in this piece by the nature of the skills that two of those three bring. Wilson lead the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team in shots on goal in 2014-2015, something head coach Mike Johnston stresses, and whether or not he cracks the opening night roster his is a name Penguins fans should get to know.
CONOR SHEARY was signed by the Penguins following a strong career at UMass and joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team last spring. In just 58 games this past regular season, he lead the team in points racking up oodles of assists on the left wing. He could add a touch of the scoring depth alongside someone like Brandon Sutter.