Illustrating a big problem in the organization: they’re getting older and older…
When you think of the Penguins as being an older team, the first thing that come to mind might be that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are all in their mid-30’s and charging down the back nine of their legendary careers. And while that certainly is true, there is another fairly sobering look at what makes the Pens one of the oldest teams in the NHL: even their young players are not that young any longer.
Goalie Tristan Jarry, often cited for being young, isn’t really THAT young, he’s 26. Jake Guentzel, once a “kid” with the “Sid and the kids” line, turns 27 before the puck drops on opening night. Brian Dumoulin recently celebrated his 30th birthday. Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker will be 30 themselves by the time the second round of next year’s playoff is completed.
All of those players are pretty much the second level beyond the foundational franchise players, and they’re all getting fairly old.
To make matters worse, there’s even another set of graduations from the Top 25 Under 25 list, with three of last year’s top five members of the best “young” players in the organization that probably officially should shed that young disclaimer at this point.
Another huge issue is that the Pens don’t really have a ton of young talent to replace the prospects they’ve lost. They only have two former first round picks (Samuel Poulin and P.O Joseph) in the organization that qualify for the 2021 Pensburgh T25U25.
A lot of the reason the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 were the contributions of young players like Rust, Dumoulin, Guentzel, Matt Murray, Olli Maatta, etc, etc. Building up a collection of young talent like that (most of whom were drafted or acquired by Ray Shero) looks to be a key initiative for Ron Hextall moving forward. Hextall has a lot of work to cover, this 2021 list is possibly one of the weakest pools of young players in our almost decade long look at tracking the Pens. Could some over-achieve or develop better than anticipated? Sure. But there are not too many best bets in the bunch.
And a lot of real talent leaves the countdown, let’s check them out:
Overall, talent from the ages of 18-25 might not be the most important part of an organization like the Pens that is trying to compete for titles, but it still is a key piece of the future. The future in Pittsburgh is not really that great right now in terms of raw talent or likely many key pieces on hand.
However, the Pens do currently possess their first AND second round picks in 2022, a rare occurrence if it comes to draft day and Pittsburgh is able to make a few high-end picks, that would go a long way towards restocking what is one of the more shallow young pools of talent in the league right now.
With all that as a great hook, join us here in August as we will look at just what the Pens do have on hand, and what young players to track and follow as they grow, develop and chase their NHL dreams.