Let’s predict Phil Kessel’s goal total as Sidney Crosby’s linemate

Matt Larkin
Phil Kessel in his new Penguins jersey. (via Pittsburgh Penguins/Twitter)

Phil Kessel has escaped the media madness of Toronto. He’ll soon settle in the considerable shade cast by Sidney Crosby’s shadow. The Toronto effect won’t wear off instantly, however. Kessel’s performance this season will be scrutinized like crazy as he joins the sport’s highest-profile player on a line.

That’s right. It’s confirmed Kessel will open the Pittsburgh Penguins’ camp on Crosby’s wing. Coach Mike Johnston told the team website to expect Kessel “on the right side with Sid to begin with.” Could Kessel end up with a different center? Sure, but it would only be Evgeni Malkin, an equally plum partner. And it’s highly unlikely the Pens break camp with news “Kessel and Crosby just couldn’t get on the same page.”

It’s thus time to ask a fun question. Assuming Crosby is his center, how many goals will Kessel score in his first season with Pittsburgh?

Read more

Phil Kessel thanks Toronto, says he will ‘always consider Toronto home’

Jared Clinton
Phil Kessel in his new Penguins jersey. (via Pittsburgh Penguins/Twitter)

Phil Kessel’s tenure as a Maple Leaf may have come to a rather unceremonious end, but the 27-year-old doesn’t plan on forgetting his time in Toronto.

Sunday morning, Kessel took to Twitter to send a heartfelt message to those who cheered him on, wore his jersey and supported the Maple Leafs over the course of his six seasons in Toronto. In the tweet, Kessel, a native of Madison, Wisc., said he will always consider Toronto home. Read more

Pascal Dupuis returns to practice with teammates, to play on blood thinners in 2015-16

Jared Clinton
Pascal Dupuis

When is the earliest in a season a player has run away with the Bill Masterton Trophy? Because Pascal Dupuis is making a strong case for the honor and the puck hasn’t even dropped to begin the new campaign.

Dupuis, 36, missed all but 16 games this past season after potentially career-threatening blood clots were found in his lungs in November 2014. When the clots were first found, a press conference was held with the Penguins medical staff, at which point it was said Dupuis would be out of the lineup and unable to play hockey for at least six months.

And though Dupuis had been on the ice since the injury, he returned to what resembled a practice Monday. Along with Dupuis were several Penguins teammates, including Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Ian Cole and Marc-Andre Fleury, and it was one of the first times since November Dupuis was allowed to participate in a skate alongside teammates.

“Being on the ice with teammates, and being allowed more than myself and the trainer here in Pittsburgh, it’s a first in basically 10 months,” Dupuis told the Penguins website Monday. “It felt great to be out there.” Read more

Gonchar tryout with Penguins points to depth issues on Pittsburgh blueline

Jared Clinton
Sergei Gonchar (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

After a season in which he scored just one goal and 14 points in 48 games, Sergei Gonchar has landed himself a pro tryout without the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While giving a shot to the 41-year-old Gonchar without anything guaranteed isn’t an altogether terrible idea — worst-case scenario is he lands a cheap, one-year deal after a solid camp and plays depth minutes — it signals a bigger concern for the Penguins: their lack of defensive prospects and a blueline that has grown thin enough the club has to consider a 40-plus option on the backend.

Have the Penguins really grown desperate enough for help on the blueline that their best option is a veteran who is coming off of the worst statistical season of his career? Is there really no one else that GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston can rely on? Read more

AHL Logo Ranking: No. 26 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Jared Clinton
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins logo. (via SportsLogos.net/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

Heading into the 2014-15 campaign, there are two major questions the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans are going to want answered: can new coach Mike Sullivan help the Penguins get over the hump and into another Calder Cup final and will goaltender Matt Murray have another remarkable season between the pipes for the baby Pens?

In two of the past three seasons, Wilkes-Barre has made it to the Eastern Conference final, and were it not for drawing the eventual-Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs in the second round — a team that was dominant from start to finish this past AHL season — it could have been three straight appearances in the conference final. Problem is, however, when the Penguins have reached the conference final, they’ve come up short.

In 2013-14, they were bounced in six games by the St. John’s IceCaps and in 2012-13 they lost in five to the Syracuse Crunch. But with a replenished roster, maybe the Penguins make another deep run this season and finally get over their final post-season hurdle.

For the 2015-16 campaign, the club brought back 23-year-old playmaker Conor Sheary, who led the team in scoring this past season with 20 goals and 45 points in just 58 games. They also added wingers Kevin Porter and Kael Mouillierat and defensemen Will O’Neill, Steve Oleksy and David Warsofsky. That’s not to mention the club brought over former captain of SHL’s Brynas, Niclas Andersen.

If everything goes right — and Murray doesn’t hit a sophomore slump — Sullivan may have a true contender on his hands in 2015-16. Read more

What does Kessel look like in a Penguins jersey? Here’s the first look

Jared Clinton
Phil Kessel in his new Penguins jersey. (via Pittsburgh Penguins/Twitter)

Avert your eyes, Toronto Maple Leafs fans. The sight of Phil Kessel in a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey may be too much to bear.

Pittsburgh’s newest sniper was taking his photo in his new duds for the club this afternoon, and the Penguins social media team sent out a photo of Kessel in his brand new No. 81 jersey.

Acquired by the Penguins on the opening day of free agency, Kessel has yet to be spotted in Pittsburgh’s jersey. While some fancy photoshop work has been spread around, this is the first time the real thing is out there, and, after six seasons as a Maple Leaf, Kessel as a Penguin looks so very strange. Take a look: Read more

The 10 oldest players suiting up in the NHL in 2015-16

Jaromir Jagr (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a move yesterday that flew a bit under the radar, signing center Matt Cullen to a one-year, $800,000 contract.

Cullen, who has played in more than 1,200 games over his career, has been a steady middle of the lineup player throughout his career. Cullen can give the Penguins some veteran depth, so it’s not a terrible signing, but what’s shocking about the deal is that Cullen is inching closer to his 39th birthday.

The Penguins also signed Eric Fehr this off-season, but Fehr, a veteran of 10 NHL seasons, is still 10 years Cullen’s junior. That’s no small age gap. Even still, Cullen barely cracks the five oldest players this season. Here are the NHL’s elder statesmen with contracts for the upcoming season: Read more

Crosby, MacKinnon donate World Championship earnings to Cole Harbour minor hockey

MacKinnon-Crosby

Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon have been spending part of this off-season running the first Sidney Crosby Hockey School in Cole Harbour, but the hockey camp isn’t the only way the two NHL stars are giving back to their hometown.

Crosby and MacKinnon, who were both part of the Canadian squad that won gold at the 2015 World Championship, have donated their shares of the winnings to the Cole Harbour Hockey Association. According to the Chronicle Herald, Hockey Canada’s Tom Renney presented Crosby and MacKinnon with checks Wednesday for their participation, and the pair of first overall picks saw it as a way to give back to the community in which they played the game as children. The value of the checks was not disclosed.

“Obviously this is where Nate and I started so to have the opportunity to give back and…to be able to have it go directly to the minor hockey associations that we were apart of means a lot to us,” Crosby told the Chronicle Herald. “I’m sure it’ll go a long way so we certainly appreciate (Renney) taking the time to come here and share his experience and wisdom with people here, and educate them. For the parents who were here and listened to him, I’m sure it means a lot that he would take time out of his busy schedule to come here.” Read more