Uncharacteristically, the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t looking for talent at the bottom of their lineup, but rather more qualified candidates than openings. The Defense Corps is in a similar situation where three defensemen fight on the left side of the third duo, and a fourth might fight for seventh.
The Penguins’ salary cap may not allow them to carry a full 23-man roster, which would also nullify the eighth defensive position the team has achieved in the recent past.
The battles began on the first day of camp. A few players showed up and they seem to be gaining the attention of coach Mike Sullivan.
Penguins Line Battles (Attacks 12 and 13):
Stock: Drake Cagiola. The NHL striker who has traveled can skate, and Sullivan has described him as “stubborn” and credited him with his “disc perseverance”. Caggiula has had 278 NHL games since entering the league in 2016 outside of North Dakota as an uncredited free agent. He never played in the AHL, and despite surgery for a herniated disc in his neck last spring, Caggiula quickly established himself as a potential inclusion on the Penguins’ roster.
Cagiola got the call with the stocked penguins lineup on Tuesday night.
Then Cagiola was in the Minor League training group on Wednesday. Caggiula may have been abandoned with the promise of prospect.
Sideways trading: Ryan Boehling. The first Montreal Canadiens player of the year 2018 was included in the penguin trade for Jeff Petrie. Poehling has street cred for being a first-round pick (25 overall) but he didn’t commit in Montreal. It was quiet at Camp Penguins. We wouldn’t say bad, because that would be inaccurate, but he didn’t have standout moments or glamorous points that drew attention to his candidacy.
Soft Trade: Josh Archibald. The brave veteran returned to the Penguins after touring the NHL during two years in Arizona and three in Edmonton. Although he hasn’t been as prominent as Cagiola in the training camp or pre-season matches, he does enjoy the inside track due to his ability to take penalty kicks. It’s a well-known commodity and doesn’t necessarily need to “pop” to earn a job.
Underwriting: Radim Zohorna. Zohorna has 10 points in 25 NHL games with the Penguins but has failed quickly in his previous major league games. At 26 years old, Zohorna should clear compromises but wasn’t seen as the primary contender in the opening night squad – until Tuesday night, when he played very well against the Detroit Red Wings, and then Wednesday, he was in the NHL training set.
Specifically, Sullivan our flowers For praise on a Wednesday afternoon, too.
He still has to win the job, but being in touch with Teddy Plogger and Brooke McGinn, and playing well, certainly didn’t hurt his chances of getting more chances – in Pittsburgh…or anywhere else.
Pittsburgh Penguins Defense:
Storage: Ty Smith. The 22-year-old defensive man is the same age as “Contender” PO Joseph but has two years of NHL experience with the New Jersey Devils. He had a poor sophomore season in Newark, which left him exhausted. The penguins sent John Marino to New Jersey for Smith and the third round.
Smith displayed strong offensive instincts. He was ahead of the curve, stepping into the attack zone, carrying the disc deep, and just keeping playing.
The left player in the third pairing will play with stability Yan Ruta, who takes proper care of the defensive area. Smith would be the perfect supplement. Smith got on the tap Tuesday night with the NHL regulars, which isn’t a guarantee but a good sign he’s getting a lot of attention.
However, Smith has yet to excel in the pre-season games and hasn’t had any shots in Game 1.
Stock: PO Joseph. The long-awaited Defender of the Penguins was steadfast with only short moments of showing off his natural abilities.
He got a nose full of the top row of Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night. It wasn’t quite a fair fight as he and WBS Penguins champ Taylor Fedun faced the challenge, but maybe that’s what the coaches wanted to see – can’t Joseph just survive, but thrive? He could have done more on Sunday night.
Trading stop: Mark Friedman.
“I’ve been fighting for (Ice time) my whole life, so I’m ready for the challenge,” he told PHN. However, it may be the default if others do not “win” the battle.
His future at the Pittsburgh Penguins is cloudy, but the future of this brave NHL defense probably isn’t. He can play both sides, offering some daring and a little bit of attack too. Someone will snap him if he gets caught in a numbers game here.