Do you know what this list is: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann? Probably so if you read the title, it’s the order of the top five point scorers for the Penguins in 2020-21.
As the summer winds on, what better way than to think about next season?
Evgeni Malkin’s status remains the biggest question about the end of season point totals. Will Geno miss too much time again in 2021-22 and not be a top scorer on the team?
The presence of Jeff Carter has to be considered as well. Carter scored 11 points in 14 regular season games with the Pens, a lot of them in an elevated role with Malkin out of the lineup. Carter figures to have that same role at the start of this season.
The power play will be interesting too, as coach Mike Sullivan and assistant Todd Reirden will have to tweak personnel more. McCann was their go-to replacement for Pittsburgh’s top PP group when a player was out of the lineup, but now with McCann gone and Malkin probably out at the beginning of the year, which player joins Crosby, Guentzel, Rust and Letang on the varsity? I’ve liked Carter for that spot on the left side, but the team hasn’t gone that route in the past too often.
As always, with the Pens health will be a factor. Crosby and Letang were mostly healthy last season, and Guentzel + Rust were the only “ironmen” to play every game last season for the team.
Kasperi Kapanen was just on the heels of McCann for fifth place in points, and Jason Zucker is a really good candidate to bounce back if he can stay healthy.
What’s your list of the top five point scorers this season for the Pens? I think I’ll go with:
Hard to leave Carter off, but we will see. Ideally Malkin bulls his way into the picture. Rust is in a contract year and his consistent goal scoring the past few years makes me think he will be in line for a big season. Letang might well pass him since the power play tends to run through him and that’s a way to collect assists, however I’ll opt to defer to the forward who will probably be involved more offensively.
It’s become almost forgotten that Zucker scored 20+ goals in the four seasons from 2016-20, and averaged 48.5 points along the way. If he can stay healthy another 20ishG+45+ point season should be on the table for him, which I don’t think the 36-year old Carter will be able to hit, nor a player who doesn’t often get a lot of points on the power play like Kapanen will be able to top.
What’s your prediction for the top five point scorers for the season?