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Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20 superlatives

Some notable tags on the Pens for this season

NHL: MAR 10 Penguins at Devils Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2019-20 regular season over, and we’re now in a period waiting for a “training camp” to begin, why not look back and hand out some yearbook style awards for the Penguins?

Fastest skater - Brandon Tanev

Pittsburgh Penguins v San Jose Sharks Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Hey, you gonna argue with Evgeni Malkin on this one? Malkin said Tanev is the fastest skater in the league. While that might be a bit of a stretch, it’s not much of one. Tanev has an excellent stride and a burst of acceleration that makes him a menace on the forecheck and a danger to break out. The contract is onerous, but the player was worth adding for his skill-set in year one.

Most likely to steal the show - Alex Letang

The precocious son of Kris Letang did what he always does in front of a camera at the NHL All-Star game, and that’s ham it up. He made lots of friends, loves mascots and hockey. And he’s up for a league award, which dear old dad hasn’t even won yet (aside from, you know, all the Stanley Cups).

Most bang for the buck - John Marino

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

With a $950,000 cap hit, John Marino emerged on the scene in a big way putting up 26 points in 56 games this season in the NHL. A most pleasant surprise coming out of no where.

Most likely to have perfect attendance - Marcus Pettersson

NHL: JAN 07 Penguins at Golden Knights Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite playing defense, throwing a few hits, blocking some shots and even getting into the odd fight or two, Marcus Pettersson has been a lineup staple for the Pens, playing 130 games total for the team since coming over in a December 2018 trade. For a team as banged up as the Pens seemingly always are, touch wood, Pettersson has been durable. Which is pretty crazy considering at 6’3 and 177 pounds he’s pretty much a beanpole out there.

Most likely to be score - Evgeni Malkin

NHL: MAR 16 Blues at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Evgeni Malkin put a disastrous 2018-19 behind him and led the entire NHL with a 3.43 5v5 points/60 in 2019-20. And while Malkin did lead the Pens with a 2.9 5v5 P/60 (and 72 points in 69 games) in 2018-19, the big turnaround in his game an offensive explosion. The Pens scored 3.3 goals/60 at 5v5 with Malkin on the ice last year, but allowed 2.9 goals. As good as he was managing to go over a point per game, he still gave a lot of it back. This year, Pittsburgh scored north of 4 Goals/60 with Malkin on the ice, and he still allowed 2.98 GA/60. Defense isn’t his specialty, but it makes a much bigger impact scoring almost a full goal per 60 more.

Best bounceback - Patric Hornqvist

NHL: OCT 18 Penguins at Maple Leafs Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Entering year two of a five year contract extension with a heady $5.3 million cap hit, there was reason for consternation about Hornqvist in his age 32/33 season this year. In 2018-19 he was banged up and scored a full-season career-low of 18 goals and 19 assists (in 69 games). This year, Hornqvist was able to mostly shrug that off scoring 17G+15A in 52 games before the stoppage. Hornqvist also saw improvements in his GF/60 (from 2.61 to 2.73) and also helped clamp down defensive lowering his GA/60 (2.04 to 1.6) and upped his P/60 from 1.69 to 2.17. Age may yet catch up to him, but it was a sneaky good season for Hornqvist, who also doesn’t always pick up points on the power play, but is often a distracting force in front of the net for the goalies to deal with.

Best beard- Patrick Marleau

2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Seriously, let’s hope we get to see a good Old Guy Without a Cup powers deep into the summer.

Most under-rated nationally - Brian Dumoulin

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Around the league, there’s not much fanfare for a defensive defenseman who is, well, actually good at defending. The Penguins perform stellar with Dumoulin on the ice, often with Letang and the Sidney Crosby line. Dumoulin is the anchor that stays at home, can defend the rush, pinch off angles and has a good gap and stick to disrupt plays. Lots of subtle stuff that doesn’t show up often in the boxscore. He gives freedom to the other four players on the ice to think offense. He can also make a pass, skate the puck and use his size and vision to be a useful player with the puck on his stick. He’s a true top pair defenseman with a bargain $4 million long-term cap hit that is among the best values in the league.

Most under-rated by the coaching staff - Juuso Riikola

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s crazy how much better any and all data will show that Riikola is in a third-pairing sheltered role than Chad Ruhwedel (to say nothing about Jack Johnson). Yet both consistently play ahead of him, for reasons unknown. If the Penguins were truly going to go on merit and create their best defensive lineup, Riikola should be third pair left defense. He won’t be, but he should.

Best new addition - Jason Zucker

NHL: MAR 07 Capitals at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In my opinion, Jason Zucker will probe to be the Pens’ best trade add in the middle of a season since Marian Hossa in 2008. Zucker scored 12 points (6G+6A) in 15 games with Pittsburgh. He’s got speed, is good along the walls, works on the forecheck and is generally just a good, solid all-around player. That the Pens got him at age 28 with three more seasons at a reasonable $5.5m cap hit is a huge win, especially for the price of a future first round pick plus boom/bust prospect Calen Addison. That’s turned into a solid value-add that has already paid off on the ice and helped boost the team in their February doldrums.

Most likely to be the next Pascal Dupuis - Evan Rodrigues

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

He even wears the number 9, a match made in heaven! Dupuis came over in the aforementioned Hossa trade as a throw-in and proved to be the most long-lasting product of the trade. Rodrigues similarly was a bit of a kick-in for the Pens to get Conor Sheary back, but unlike Sheary, Rodrigues is a restricted free agent this off-season. Rodrigues, 26, toiled with the hapless Sabres for a few seasons. He put up 61 points in 41 games as a senior with Boston University in 2014-15. Rodrigues, like Dupuis in his early days, has mostly been a fourth liner. But he’s got some versatility to play any of the three forward positions, has some speed and maybe, just maybe, some point production in his future if placed in an advantageous position. He just seems like a guy next year when a couple injuries strike that will be playing with Crosby and Malkin....And then I guess we’ll see if he can turn that into success like the old #9 did.

Who are some other Pens’ superlatives you have in mind for this season?