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Penguins cut five prospects, a look at how the roster is shaping up

A swift and brutal cut today in Pittsburgh, who are now down to 23 players

NHL: OCT 05 Preseason - Sabres at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tough day to be a promising young player for the Penguins today, as five of them received the news they have been sent to the AHL.

From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have reduced their training camp to 30 players, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.

The following players have been assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ training camp:

F - Kasper Bjorkqvist

F - Filip Hallander

F - Nathan Legare

F - Sam Poulin

D - P.O Jospeh

The Pens also shipped back all four players they recalled from Wilkes-Barre to help them get through the preseason game last night in Valterri Puustinen, Taylor Fedun, Niclas Almari and Jonathan Gruden.

The 30 players still in camp are:

Goalies (3): Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith, Louis Domingue*

Defense (8): Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, John Marino, Marcus Pettersson, Mike Matheson, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, Juuso Riikola

Forwards (19): Anthony Angello, Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jeff Carter, Michael Chaput, Jake Guentzel, Danton Heinen, Kasperi Kapanen, Sam Lafferty, Brock McGinn, Drew O’Connor, Evan Rodrigues, Bryan Rust, Dominik Simon, Radim Zohorna, Jason Zucker, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brian Boyle**

*Domingue is on waivers and the team will find out shortly after noon today if he clears
**Brian Boyle is on a tryout

The Pens will need to get down to a maximum of 23 players by the start of the regular season. Subtract Domingue for one, and Michael Chaput looks like a depth body to help get through the last preseason game tomorrow to make it to 28 pretty easily.

Unfortunately, Evgeni Malkin won’t be on the opening 23 player roster, since he is out for at least two months he will be placed on the injured reserve and not count against there. Sidney Crosby could also be placed on the IR, which would necessitate at least seven days of time. If both centers are on IR, that brings the Pens to 26.

From there, the unknown (or at least unannounced) COVID statuses of Aston-Reese and Guentzel could effect the roster greatly. Given league protocol, the door could be open for Guentzel to return if he posts a few negative tests in a row and has no symptoms. It remains unknown if he is conditioned and able to even play a NHL game next week, however. According to Mike Sullivan, Aston-Reese has had minor symptoms (compared to none for Guentzel), which could put him behind a bit further.

Depending on medical status, it looks possible Pittsburgh might not have Aston-Reese and/or Guentzel to start the year, with decisions about whether or not either or both might remain on the 23 player roster. If not, the door for a replacement would take the form of Angello, Lafferty or Simon to either make the team or dress as one of the 12 forwards as needed. Should Aston-Reese and/or Guentzel be fit and cleared to return, players like Angello and Lafferty may become cuts from the NHL team as a result.

The defense may well be set with the eight players they have remaining, however staying under the 23 player limit could be a monkey wrench in keeping Riikola on the NHL roster. Keeping eight defenders means a maximum of 13 healthy forwards for the roster. With Guentzel and Aston-Reese somewhat up in the air, can the team afford to keep two surplus defensemen when their forward group is going to be (perhaps very temporarily) depleted?

It’s a puzzle that Ron Hextall and Mike Sullivan will have to solve as the team goes into the final weekend of the preseason and gets down to the business of the real season.