Top prospects for Pittsburgh Penguins

With forwards Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust reaching the in the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ prospect depth should have taken a sizable hit. But that hasn’t been the case.

Top prospects for

Two more forwards, Daniel Sprong and Zachary Aston-Reese, are expected to make an immediate impact once they find a permanent role in the NHL and could push Pittsburgh’s youth movement even further.

“Aston-Reese and Sprong are both tracking very well,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “I think they’re going to have a real impressive [training] camp, which will put themselves in the conversation of where they should start the season.”

The Penguins defeated the in six games in June to win the Cup for the second straight season. They were the first team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. No team has won the Cup in three straight seasons since the New York Islanders won it four times from 1980-83.

“I have no doubt we can do big things again this season,” Guentzel said Wednesday. “I think our leadership group is so good. They set the tone right away in training camp, what it’s going to be like and how you’ve got to play with if you want to win. We’re lucky we have a great coaching staff to help us win too.

“With those two things leading the way there’s no reason we can’t [win the Cup again]. We just need to start things off on the right foot and go from there.”

While centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain the centerpiece of the team, the Penguins have some holes to fill. During free agency, they lost centers Nick Bonino (Predators) and (Minnesota Wild), left wing Chris Kunitz (Tampa Bay Lightning), and defensemen Trevor Daley (Detroit Red Wings) and Ron Hainsey (Toronto Maple Leafs). Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Pittsburgh Penguins #66 Mario Lemieux Black Women's Old Time Heidi NHL Hoodie
Pittsburgh Penguins #66 Mario Lemieux Black Women’s Old Time Heidi NHL Hoodie

“I think we definitely lost some big pieces, but it hasn’t been a complete overhaul,” Guentzel said. “Those guys were great leaders and I learned a lot from them and I am happy I had the chance to be their teammate. … But we have to move forward with the team we have and hope we can continue on the success we’ve built.”

Guentzel, 22, scored twice in his NHL debut against the New York Rangers on Nov. 21, and had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games last season. He led the League with 13 goals during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and had 21 points, which tied forward Dino Ciccarelli of the 1981 Minnesota North Stars and Ville Leino of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers for the rookie playoff record.

This will mark the fourth time that Young has represented the United States in the Olympics, having played in the 1988, ’92 and 2002 Games. Young and the Americans, led by the legendary Herb Brooks, captured a silver medal in the ’02 Games. In 20 career as a player, Young tallied eight goals and 15 points.

Young also skated for the victorious American entry into the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, producing four points (2G-2A). The entire 1996 United States World Cup championship team, which defeated Canada, was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as a group in 2016.

Young and Granato were teammates on the 1988 Olympic team, tying for second on the club in scoring with eight points each. Their teammates on that squad included future Penguin Kevin Stevens, current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli and Brian Leetch.

Granato was a Penguins assistant coach for five seasons from 2009-14. During that span, the Penguins won more cumulative games than any team in the NHL, and the penalty kill, which Granato oversaw, owned the third-best success rate in the league, killing off nearly 85 percent of the opposition’s power-play opportunities.

Of the last five American head coaches at the Olympics, three have had ties to the Penguins. Brooks, the coach of the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad, was at the time a Penguins scout, and also a former Pens head coach, when he won a silver medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Dan Bylsma jersey was in his sixth season as Pittsburgh’s head coach when he was the bench boss of the 2014 U.S. Team that competed at the Sochi Games. Granato was one of Bylsma’s assistants at the ’14 Olympics.