Winning the Stanley Cup has gone a long way towards emerging stars and cementing reputations. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby the Penguins are seen the best two centers in the game, Jordan Staal got an invite to Team
But who's the next breakout Penguin going to be? Obviously there's no one else on the roster that's going to win a major award like the scoring title or MVP, but what other player do you think will be in position to excel in 2009-10? As in perhaps the next Max Talbot. Seen as a clown or comic relief by jokingly calling himself a "superstar", Talbot turned the laughs into celebrations with his 2 goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final (as well as a solid post-season that saw him score 8 goals and 5 assists). So who's the next breakout player, read the cases, or better yet post your own in the comments, and use your voice with the poll below (players age at the beginning of the season in parenthesis)
Tyler Kennedy (23 years old) - With Talbot's injury there's suddenly a hole for a top 6 winger. Could Kennedy (who scored 15 goals last season getting almost zippy power-play chances) showcase himself and be able to transition from a checking role on the 3rd line to a scoring role with a player like Malkin? TK is easily the most established player of the options I'm listing so this is the safest choice.
Luca Caputi (21) – Last season was Caputi’s first professional year, and boy did he learned a lot on and off the ice. Caputi grew into a key role with the Baby Pens. He's got the size and knows he needs to add muscle this summer to compete with the big dogs in the NHL (like Mike Komisarek). Will he do it? As mentioned above, someone's got to fill out the prize wing spot with the reigning Art Ross champion Evgeni Malkin, could the young Caputi
Alex Goligoski (24) - Goose was impressive enough to get a three year contract from the Pens to average $1.83 million per season, despite the fact he's only played 48 career NHL games. Goligoski was real good on the power-play when Gonchar was injured, and he figures to battle Kris Letang for top-line PP minutes this season. Goose scored 6 goals and 12 assists in about half a season, and that was his rookie campaign. Now going on a full year in the NHL could he be a 10-15 NHL goal scorer?
Eric Tangradi (20) – It would be a huge leap to go from playing with boys in the OHL to playing with men in the most competitive league in the world in the NHL. But Tangradi has the size (6’4, 220) to hold his own and seems to have the talent to compete. Again to harp on the point that there’s an opportunity for someone to be Malkin’s 2nd winger, could Tangradi pull the monster transition?
Dustin Jeffrey (21) – Jeffrey got 12 games in the NHL last season, so he knows what it takes to make it to the show and stick. He’s in a tough place to be the next breakout star, since his role is going to be a responsible forward on the 4th, if he’s in the NHL at all this year. But injuries happen and roles can change, especially if you get on a hot streak and start producing.
John Curry (25) – Sure Pittsburgh signed veteran Brent Johnson, but don’t think that means Curry is buried forever. Due to injuries/ineffectiveness/trades the Penguins have given playing time to at least three different goalies in the past two seasons. Fleury’s gotten hurt two years in a row and Johnson hasn’t been the most durable either. It seems a solid bet to say that Curry will get a chance, at some point in
Other -- tell us in the comments who you think it's gonna be and feel free to make a case for them.