It is only a couple of weeks of training camps and two preseason games but we have some actual hockey to talk about.
So naturally we are going to make some early knee-jerk reactions to what we have seen and take our first look at the Penguins’ stock report to see whose stock is up and whose stock is down.
It is a promising start for the Penguins’ new-look second line, while a problematic defense pairing from a year ago did not exactly do well in its first showing this preseason.
Alex Galchenyuk and Evgeni Malkin — This is probably going to be the duo that drives the second line this season and they are off to a really promising start in training camp and the preseason. I still have my doubts that Galchenyuk’s production is going to spike all that much, but I am going to leave the door open for him to get some kind of a boost,
Malkin looks like a player that is coming into the season on a mission to have a monster year and the pairing could end up working out for both players. Galchenyuk has his flaws, but he also has plenty of skill, a quick release, and a really good shot. That was on display on Thursday night when he ripped a shot behind Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins on the power play.
He sometimes needs to use that shot a little more often. Will having an opportunity to play next to a center like Malkin put him in a position to let it go more than he has in the past?
They opened camp with Brandon Tanev is the third member of that line and played two periods with him on Thursday. Tanev was eventually swapped out for Jake Guentzel, resulting in Guentzel scoring a goal off the rush in the third period. Obviously Guentzel is going to be attached to Sidney Crosby, but there was a lot of skill on display.
Nathan Legare — From the moment the Penguins selected Legare in the third-round of this year’s draft there was a buzz about him, with some even going as far as to argue he had more upside than the team’s first-round pick, Samuel Poulin.
So far it’s easy to see why.
Legare just looks like an NHL player physically and has a great shot to go along with it. The latter was on display twice on Thursday night in a 30-second span when he scored a pair of goals. The first one came off of an offensive zone face-off scramble where he quickly snapped the puck between the legs of a defender and snuck it through the five-hole of a helpless Blue Jackets goalie.
Not even half a minute later he pounced on a loose puck in the middle of the ice and just blasted a filthy shot that was in and out of the net in the blink of an eye. It was a thing of beauty.
There is no room for an 18-year-old project on the NHL roster at this point, so he will not be a factor this season, but wow has he made a promising first impression.
The Jack Johnson and Chad Ruhwedel defense pairing — When I looked back at the Penguins’ defense pairing options from a year ago this was the pairing that scored the worst in pretty much every area. They were a minus-6 (one goal for, seven goals against) in 5-on-5 goal differential despite playing just 84 minutes together and were absolutely dominated in every shot attempt and scoring chance metric. It was bad.
This was the duo the Penguins used in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Sabres in State College and you will never guess what happened ... it was bad. I honestly don’t expect this to be a thing during the regular season because barring injury one of these two will not be in the game-night lineup. But on the occasion that they are in the lineup together you just simply can not play them together.
Zach Aston-Reese — This kind of feels like a make-or-break year for Aston-Reese with the Penguins, doesn’t it? At 25 he is no longer a prospect and should be establishing himself as ... something. Either an NHL player or not an NHL player. I honestly have no idea which direction the season is going to go for him.