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Combing through last season’s surprises and duds for the Penguins

Looking back on our predictions of what the surprises in 2017-18 would be.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Last off-season we asked what the surprise player for 2017-18 would be (in a pleasant way). Here were the results, (gulp).

Well some of that sure didn’t work out!

With the benefit of knowing what happened, I think it’s fair to say the (positive) surprises were (in no particular order):

  • Health in general (Sidney Crosby and Olli Maatta playing all 82 games, Kris Letang getting 79, Evgeni Malkin playing 78)
  • Phil Kessel setting a career high in assists (58) and points (92) despite being older than typical career best seasons
  • Patric Hornqvist scoring 29 goals despite missing twelve games
  • Brian Dumoulin’s growing confidence and offensive impact
  • Riley Sheahan bouncing back from a bad season in Detroit and putting up basically third line-caliber production (32 points in 73 games, 1.8 P/60)
  • Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry combining for 20 NHL wins in 34 starts and a .913 save % when thrown into the fire
  • Jamie Oleksiak coming over from Dallas and settling in pretty well as a full-time third pair player
  • The Jake Guentzel show continuing to shine brighter than ever in the playoffs

Obviously some of those items (like Sheahan and Oleksiak) were impossible to project last offseason since the trades to bring them over hadn’t happened yet.

Our poll was intended as a “glass half full” look for a positive surprise, but as we know, there were several disappointing surprises in store too:

  • The whole Antti Niemi debacle
  • Matt Murray’s tumultuous, tough year of injury, personal loss, and mediocre play
  • Kris Letang’s defensive fiascoes
  • Ian Cole falling out of favor to the point of frequent healthy scratches despite seemingly playing pretty well and eventually getting traded
  • Conor Sheary falling from 53 points in 2016-17 to 30 points in 2017-18 and all the way out of future plans
  • Sidney Crosby “only” finishing 10th in scoring in the league due to immense even strength production struggles by his own lofty standards
  • The Derrick Pouliot era in Pittsburgh ending in a whimper
  • Really poor fourth line play from the combination of Tom Kuhnhackl - Carter Rowney - Ryan Reaves (which wasn’t too surprising to many, but still disappointing to live through nonetheless)
  • Phil Kessel’s playoff struggles and the offseason unrest it caused
  • Derick Brassard’s injury that zapped any forward momentum, stalling the trade intended to boost the team to a three-peat

The twists and turns of an unpredictable season are always something fun to look back on. We’ll re-run the poll from last year, and do it all over again later on for 2018-19.


The (positive) surprise of the Pens 2017-18 season was:

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Phil’s scoring
    (266 votes)
  • 38%
    Overall health
    (812 votes)
  • 9%
    (202 votes)
  • 18%
    The untested goalies (DeSmith and Jarry) contributions
    (392 votes)
  • 14%
    (310 votes)
  • 6%
    Hornqvist’s goals
    (130 votes)
2112 votes total Vote Now