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Ranking the best jersey numbers of the new Penguins

A very serious and scientific ranking of the numbers that new Penguin players will wear

Pittsburgh Penguins v San Jose Sharks Photo by Amanda Cain/NHLI

It must be a weekend in the summer - time for the hard-hitting analysis to talk and rank the numbers for the Penguins’ new players. It’s a return feature from last year and goofy enough to love. I hope, anyways.

12 new numbers were announced, but perhaps thankfully for the dear readers we’re going to trim things down and only discuss the likely NHL talent and most important new additions here without breaking down all 12.

#7 - Joona Koppanen (15)

—OK, I said a focused list of NHL player numbers, but this was too good to pass up. Koppanen should have been assigned the No. 42 that his countryman Kasperi Kapanen had previously. Koppanen/Kapanen, you see where this is going. Koppanen at 6’5”, left-handed and not nearly as explosive of a skater would have been a real mind twist from seeing that as a 42. Alas, it wasn’t to be, so Koppanen is getting last place.

#6 - Alex Nylander (11)

—Ranked sixth for being tough luck — the addition of a more-established player has bumped Nylander from the No. 19 he wore last season to a new digit. Even though three players in Pens’ history have worn No. 11 since Jordan Staal (Kevin Porter, Frederick Gaudreau, Brian Boyle), it still is a tough assignment in the Crosby/Malkin era to have an 11 that isn’t Staal. Nylander wore No. 92 in Chicago and Buffalo, curious he didn’t go back to that. His father (Michael) was a 92 for most of his NHL days. Maybe 92 is too conspicuous a number that stands out for being a so high and drawing a lot of attention that Nylander doesn’t want as he tries to establish himself. But by doing that, ironically, I think you could say that as a Penguin No. 11 stands out just much, if not more so, given the J-Staal connotations.

#5 - Lars Eller (20)

Can’t say why, but I feel like 20 is a trifling, uncool number for hockey. It doesn’t help that the Penguins haven’t had a relevant player wear the number in the last 15 years since Colby Armstrong was traded. I like Robert Lang and Luc Robitaille as much as the next person, but that’s getting to be pretty far out by this point. Eller has been wearing 20 since 2016 and now for three teams in a row, so it works for him. But we’ll see if he can help increase the reputation of this number.

#4 - Noel Acciari (55)

Acciairi will make a very specific and perhaps irrelevant small piece of history when he becomes the first forward in history of the Penguins to wear “the ol’ double nickel”. The previous five No. 55’s per the great have all been blueliners. If you’re a certain age, that might instantly recall Larry Murphy. If you’re a different age, that might be Sergei Gonchar. In addition, there was the very forgettable Drake Berehowsky, Ric Jackman and Philip Samuelsson taking short stints with 55. None of them have probably won a faceoff and gotten in on the forecheck like Acciari will soon wearing this number.

#3 - Ryan Graves (27)

Great, now after having a forward wearing a defenseman’s number in Acciari, now we have a defenseman wearing a forward’s number! Graves takes a number that in recent years has been used in Pittsburgh by forwards (“Anyone but” Glen Murray, Eddie Olczyk, Alexei Kovalev, Georges Laraque and Craig Adams) but if he keeps blocking shots, no one will mind or notice. Graves will probably score more goals in a season than normal outputs from most of those non-Kovalev mentioned #27’s above too (heyoooo).

#2 - Reilly Smith (19)

It’s indisputable that 19 is one of the most iconic and revered numbers across hockey history. Smith wore it his whole stint in Vegas from 2017-23 (after being an 18 in Dallas, Boston and Florida from 2011-17) and has decided to stick with it for the Pens. Considering the last time he wore a #19 he was also raising the Cup above his head, you can’t blame him. Now Smith will build on the legacy of Penguins like Jean Pronovost and Bryan Trottier who have donned the famous No. 19.

#1 - Matt Nieto (83)

Well, I mean, you can’t go against this. I believe the sourced material is from a series that The Athletic came up with talking why players chose their jersey numbers. Nieto will be the first Penguin in franchise history to wear No. 83. While it is the type of unconventional and non-traditional type of number that I typically would heavily frown upon, in this case you can’t have a better reason for doing wearing it, and I’m glad he will continue to do so. Good guy, that Matt Nieto! (thumbs up)