Hey guys! It’s Sven taking a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins today for 31 in 31. Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Sidney Crosby – 82GP 29-60-89. Crosby continues to amaze and dominate despite getting older, and a floor of 80 points seems about right (though we know he is capable of so much more). I’ve seen him go anywhere in the top five of most drafts, and he is a very safe pick despite injuries in the past.
Evgeni Malkin – 78GP 42-56-98. Quite possibly the riskiest pick inside the top ten, Malkin stayed mostly healthy for the first time in a while, and as a result nearly hit the century mark for the first time in a while. Though there is so much upside with his PPP and power-forward yet playmaker style, he can very easily get injured again. I’m not sure if I would gamble on him unless he slides into the middle of the second round, but there is a lot to win for those who do gamble.
Phil Kessel – 82GP 34-58-92. Despite reportedly having some locker room issues and doing basically whatever he wants to prepare for games/the season (just LOOK at that gut), Phil the Thrill enjoyed a new career-high season last year thanks to the dominant Pittsburgh PP and joining Malkin full-time on the second line. Is a repeat performance possible? Yes, but I’m not so sure if it will. He is still good for 70 points regardless (a 20-point regression here wouldn’t even be that bad), so take a look at Kessel in the third or fourth round.
Patric Hornqvist – 70GP 29-20-49. From an unbiased, non-Penguins fan Hornqvist is one of the most average players in terms of production. The guy is nothing flashy and scores gritty goals, but puts up right around 50 points every single year. Why he is ranked so high by ESPN (80) I have no idea, but he will likely fall in most drafts despite likely top-six minutes.
Jake Guentzel – 82GP 22-26-48. Another candidate for my most overrated player going into last year’s fantasy season, Guentzel put up a respectable campaign despite a looming Sophomore Slump. That being said, he tore it up in the Playoffs and is destined to continue playing with Crosby on the Pens’ top line. With Hornqvist ranked so high, I have no idea why Guentzel is ranked so low (187), making him quite the sleeper target if he continues to play alongside Crosby.
Derick Brassard – 72GP 21-25-46. I took Brassard in the last round of my draft last year, and he had a very underwhelming 46-point season. He wouldn’t be a #3C on most other teams, but I’m sure he’s fine with less pressure playing behind Crosby-Malkin. That being said, from a fantasy perspective he does not have much value unless some PP time is sprinkled in.
Daniel Sprong – AHL: 65GP 32-33-65. With 26 NHL games and five NHL points to his name, Sprong will look to have a more consistent role with the Pens this year. The first player I have written about to be born in the Netherlands, Sprong may be ready to compete for a top-six role. We have seen in the past with Guentzel that Crosby can make just about anyone playing with him better, so my hopes are high for the 2015 second-rounder.
Kris Letang – 79GP 9-42-51. Much like Malkin, Letang was able to stay healthy last season and put together a great campaign. Also much like Malkin, I’m not sure if I’m willing to take the risk with him. He’s probably cracking my top 10 defencemen list when healthy, so if you’re feeling lucky look to maybe take a top-tier D first as a safety net, then take Letang as your #2.
Justin Schultz – 63GP 4-23-27. I blame Letang being healthy for part of Schultz’s massive regression from 2016-17 to last season. Nearly cutting his point total in half, the former college stud has looked to fall off the map. That being said, if you’re one to bank on Letang getting injured you can take Schultz as a depth D. With PP#2 time still, it’s not the worst pick.
Olli Maatta – 82GP 7-22-29. At 24 years old, Maatta has yet to impress offensively or pan out into a minute muncher, so I’m really not sure what kind of season he is about to have. I streamed him up for a nice little point streak last season, but again I’m not sure how much sure how much potential there is for something like that with Letang in the lineup raking on the PP and Dumoulin munching minutes.
Matt Murray – 49GP 2.92GAA 907SV%. Despite being the outright #1G last season, Murray was sidelined with injury and did not get the taste of a full workload yet. I think he is very capable of taking the Penguins back to the top of the Metro division, and could be a sleeper given his rank among goaltenders. The sample size is a little small, but he is their guy this year and I think he will rise to the occasion.
Filip Hallander – Allsvenskan: 40GP 9-11-20. Now the Euro-league point totals never look attractive (at first glance I couldn’t believe the Habs took Kotkaniemi at third overall), but there has to be good reason the Pens have signed their 2018 second-rounder. With all-around two-way player written all over him, Hallander will likely play a season in the SHL this year in order to hopefully end up in North America next season. There is offensive upside, but I take it the Penguins are more interested in his smart play and competitiveness.
Jordan Bellerive – WHL: 71GP 46-46-92. Now he may ask me to call him Jordy in the future, but the Pens have a very attractive prospect here that they were able to sign out of major-junior. With another season in Lethbridge (WHL) likely ahead of him, hopefully we will get to see this BC boy shine at the WJC this Winter. Despite somewhat lacking size, Bellerive plays with tenacity and shoots the puck as if he’s gonna put it through the net.
Sam Miletic – OHL: 63GP 36-56-92. Miletic is another major-junior guy signed by the Pens, and will likely make the jump to the AHL this season. With a knack for finishing and good size, he will likely thrive in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) this season.