The calendar still stubbornly clings to August, so here’s a little off-the-wall idea for discussion today- let’s talk about a surprise. Since it’s almost a holiday weekend and we’re talking the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, let’s go for a positive surprise you could see playing out this year. This off-season has been filled with mostly loss in player movement, without much uplifting or positive changes going on for the Penguins, so why not try to have a good day?
Here’s some ideas-
Who’s your surprise player for 2017-18?
This poll is closed
Ryan Reaves, better than expected
Olli Maatta, bounces back
Derrick Pouliot, finally shines
Antti Niemi, gets back to form
Other, explain in comments
I’d think the “right” answer if this was done 12 months ago would have been Justin Schultz. Many were penciling him in to be the 6th or 7th defenseman on the team after being heavily sheltered in the 2016 playoffs. And then all he did was end up finishing 7th in the league for defensemen scoring with 51 points (12g+39a) and really stepping up to help replace some of the offensive punch missing with Kris Letang injured. Schultz started the year as somewhat still of an unknown if he could handle a larger load, and by summer was signing a $5.5 million a season contract. Huge turnaround there.
You could also probably make a case for Jake Guentzel too. Last year at this time he was a solid prospect. By season’s end he led the NHL playoffs in goal scoring and was even garnering some outside talk at the Conn Smythe. Tough to imagine a bigger and better surprise there.
So who’s going to be this year’s Schultz or Guentzel for Pittsburgh? Feel free to add some more in the comments and make a case for anyone left out.