In Mike Sullivan’s return to Penguins’ training camp and preseason after his short leave of absence, the question of whether or not Derick Brassard would be seen utilized not only down the middle, but also on the wing was immediately asked at his media availability Friday afternoon.
The head coach’s response was quite comedic at first, saying that “(they) have given a lot of thought into it, and that it’s been well-chronicled by (the media),” with a slight chuckle and sly smile.
But it’s something that Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff and Brassard are very open to exploring, and there are no signs of stunting any chance of moving the guys who are generally known as focusing on one position to play both center and wing.
“Do we know (Brassard) is a center by trade, or that (it’s) his instinct or nature? Yes, yes we do,” Sullivan continued. “But he’s also a really good player and a versatile player, and we want to make sure we maximize this roster.”
Shuffling not only Brassard around, but other guys as well is something we’ll definitely be seeing in this exhibition period, but it isn’t a confirmed fact that Brassard will be a winger come the regular season. It is, however, something Sullivan will take full advantage of in certain situations as the season marches on.
“There might be a little bit of both,” he said about keeping the lineup subject to change. “In one instance, we love the strength that we have down the middle, and all of us believe that that’s an important element of having a competitive team. Certainly, when we have (Brassard) down the middle, we’re pretty strong down the middle. But he’s also a versatile player, and depending on how things go, that is an option that’s on the table, and we’re not going to take it off.”
With Bryan Rust able to slot in on every line and be effective, coupled with the seemingly insurmountable amount of depth at the center position the Penguins currently possess, it’s ultimately just a waiting game to see how the lineup will turn out game-to-game.
Matt Cullen is another likely option to see shuffled back-and-forth from wing to center. With limited left-handed wingers to choose from past Jake Guentzel and Zach Aston-Reese (who’s likely a bottom-six guy), one of either Cullen or Brassard will have to see the left wing. Sullivan doesn’t have much of a choice. It’s obviously been mentioned that Riley Sheahan could play the wing, but I like him too much as a center, and his face-off numbers speak for themselves.
Keep eyeing up the lineup, especially when Brassard returns from his respiratory illness (potentially Sunday at the earliest) in these final weeks leading up to Opening Night.