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Dubas talks about depth and the start of the season

The head of hockey operations meets with the media ahead of the start of his first regular season in Pittsburgh

Kyle Dubas met with the media on Monday morning for a chat about his perspective on the preseason and some other general thoughts as he prepares to kick off his first season with the Penguins.

The press conference can be seen here if you want to check it out.

Overall, the vibes projected would be “confident” and “happy” at the start of the season.

“We are at the end of camp,” Dubas said. “There is generally a very positive and optimistic feeling and throughout the building about the team. Now it’s up to us and the team to turn it into an earned confidence.”

Some more thoughts in rapid fire form:

  • When it came to prospect camp, Dubas cited great performances from Sam Poulin, Brayden Yager, Joel Blomqvist and Avery Hayes as players who stood out and was happy to take time to get to know the prospects that are on hand in the Penguins’ organization.
  • Impressed with Sullivan installing systems, can see why Sullivan is regarded as highly as he is.
  • He was “very, very happy” with the competition between the players at camp. Still making the final decisions on what to happen prior to submitting the opening roster to the league, with the team taking all the time they have up to the 5pm deadline to see what happens with the waiver wire and then making their final decisions based on how it shakes out.
  • Dubas expects to start with 22 players on the roster. (Teams can go up to 23 players at this time of the year, but due to salary cap constraints the Penguins will be one player short of that).
  • They were happy with the depth guys and those who made it through waivers so far to be available to push the team during the season to have the options to call-up players if it is necessitated.
  • Isn’t totally satisfied with the bottom-six forwards because teams can always look to tinker or improve and cited the waiver addition of Jansen Harkins as a step towards bringing in more competition and hoping to improve the team whenever possible to add more depth.
  • Happy with the front office group adds of Doug Wilson and Trent Mann on the management side of the table for getting some experienced minds and voices to join the Pens.
  • There is no timeline or sense of urgency on Jake Guentzel’s contract to this point, all efforts from the player and team up to this point have been focused on Guentzel’s health and getting back to 100%. Dubas left the door open to Guentzel playing tomorrow, though he wasn’t saying either way if it would happen or not right away. Dubas is open to talking with Guentzel’s agent Ben Hankinson throughout the season and cited their excellent relationship to make it sound like when it’s time to approach contract talks that the two will have that conversation without much worry that an agreement for both sides won’t be reached.
  • Dubas knew Erik Karlsson was well-prepared and a professional but has been very impressed getting to know him and see him up close with how Karlsson handles himself and what he brings to the table every day.
  • Compared Jeff Carter’s late-career slide down the lineup similar to Dubas’ good buddy and assistant GM Jason Spezza at the end of his playing days in a reduced role. The managerial team wanted to build up depth so that the team would be deep enough to slot players lower and get the most out of them. Dubas also thought Carter had a very good preseason and that he can be a strong member of a contending team this season.
  • When asked about the bare minimum for a successful season, broke down to a more day-by-day basis of winning each day and stacking enough good days so that the team can be in a position to win the Stanley Cup. If they don’t win the Cup, they won’t reach their objective but they have to take it a small step at a time to get there.
  • Dubas gave a very insightful and thoughtful answer about team-building (check it out in complete fashion here), talking about how a big managerial mistake is to change philosophies and follow whatever is trendy in the NHL by the current champion’s style of play and get away from a team’s core strengths and tenets. Dubas and Mike Sullivan know the Pens have offense in their DNA, so it is on management to lean into that and put the players in the best position for success by building in a style that best fits them.
  • Was proud of Sam Poulin on and off the ice, cited wanting him to play a big role in Wilkes-Barre instead of a small role in Pittsburgh to start the season. Can envision him playing a role in Pittsburgh this season.
  • Dubas loved Alex Nylander’s first preseason game this year but then he dipped as time went on. Thinks he has the talent but needs to execute on it every day on a consistent basis. Dubas then put over Nylander big time by saying he would be “shocked” if Nylander wasn’t a full-time NHL player by the end of the season and that they want to work with him to use his talent across all of the 82 games and help him get to the next level with a consistent and total effort by the player.
  • Called Sidney Crosby “realer than real” getting to see his leadership up close. Thought it was great that he stood up for Kris Letang in the fight against Peyton Krebs of Buffalo on Friday night and even with little things like being so happy to be on the ice with the children in Halifax and smiling that the Pens “shouldn’t take fore granted how special it is to be around someone like that each day”.