The last time I was this impressed with the young foundation of a losing hockey team, it was the early '90s and the team was the Quebec Nordiques.
Unfortunately for Quebec fans, the Nords moved on to Colorado for their big Stanley Cup charge.
It is deja vu all over again.
This time the setting is Pittsburgh and the Penguins are playing the role of the Nordiques. Quebec had an immensely talented young roster, including the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Owen Nolan, Stephane Fiset, Scott Young, Wendel Clark, Valeri Kamensky, Andrei Kovalenko, and Adam Deadmarsh. The Penguins may not have a whole lot of household names yet, but wait a year or two and you will know this team as well as any of the players on that Quebec team of the early '90s.
Sid the Kid needs no introduction. With 85 points in 73 games, we can let Sidney Crosby play the role of Sakic. With 24 points in his last 17 games, he continues to improve.
Who better to play the role of Forsberg than the much anticipated Evgeni Malkin? If Malkin can make his way to North America in the fall, he will begin what I believe to be a 90-point NHL debut season.
A top goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury will win as much as he loses next season, but will tuck that experience under his belt for what will be a truly phenomenal season two years down the road.
Former first round draft pick Colby Armstrong has found a lot of chemistry on Crosby's wing and if he can maintain it next campaign, he will easily put up 70 points.
Is Michel Ouellet, who kicked off his NHL career with 10 goals in 10 games, destined to ride shotgun with Malkin?
Big rearguard Ryan Whitney is maturing as a player, and is the perfect complement to veteran Sergei Gonchar. They will make magic together next season and even more so the season after, assuming they stay together.
Brooks Orpik, 26, is turning into that hulking blueliner with hard-hitting force that every team needs.
Jani Rita seems to be blossoming into the perfect third line player. Rita is a hustler and an energy player capable of, one day, 40 points in a season.
Many of the pieces to the puzzle already lay within the City of Champions, but growing pains are still inevitable. I don't expect these pains to last much beyond next season, however. The talent is too great. If you are in a rebuilding phase in your keeper league, you could do a lot worse than investing in some Penguins.
I'll end this piece with one last thing to ponder: The Penguins will probably end this season with a top two draft pick. Suddenly, you can consider the possibility of adding a Phil Kessel to the squadÂ…
Jussi Jokinen is still playing on the top line in Dallas, but has been held pointless for the last five games. His ice time has been hovering around the 14-minute mark, although the minutes have been spent with Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen as his linematesÂ…
Los Angeles forward Alexander Frolov is also pointless in five games, and has just nine points in his last 17Â…
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: News out of Ottawa now indicates that winger Martin Havlat will make his return from shoulder surgery on Monday against BostonÂ…Oleg Kvasha, who had 10 points in 10 games as a Coyote, could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained Monday against EdmontonÂ…Buffalo's Jochen Hecht will be out until the first round of the playoffs after injuring his knee (again) in Monday's game against TorontoÂ…
Farm Report: 18-year-old Ryan O'Marra, signed by the Islanders last week, scored four goals in three games in his pro debut for Bridgeport of the American League. The 2005 15th overall draft pick was a goal post away from recording a hat trick in his first AHL game. There are still some growing pains, however, as O'Marra is a minus-4.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Hockey Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Wednesday and Friday afternoon. Also, get the top 250 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN's Fantasy section.
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