On Monday night, Pittsburgh gave their fans a glimpse of the future by dressing young guns and players they project to be integral parts of their team in the next few years.
On offense, the Pens dressed the following top 3 lines:
Alex Turcotte - Jesper Boqvist - Kaapo Kakko
Brett Howden - Pierre Engvall - Cody Glass
Rodion Amirov - Samuel Fagemo - Arthur Kaliyev
Tucotte, Boqvist, Amirov, Fagemo, and Kailyev are expected to star for the AHL Penguins this year. Additionally, Michael Rasmussen also dressed for the Penguins on Monday, but only played a few minutes after GM Matt Swackhammer forgot to hit send on the SLACK message to their coach that he wanted to see him play tonight.
What a moron, right?
On defense, much of the normal pairings were in place with the exception of Evan Bouchard making his preseason debut. As GM Josh Rose noted in controversial article, the Pens strength in their prospect pool is at forward and not defense. Swackhammer said that he felt that Bouchard is really the only defenseman from the AHL that is close to playing an NHL role but is still at least a year away.
At goalie, Jake Oettinger received the start as he is also expected to start many games for the Baby Pens in 20-21. Oettinger is expected to potentially challenge for a backup spot in 21-22 or 22-23, depending on his development.
Once this lineup was announced, it was unclear how they would perform versus the likes of great forwards such as Brad Marchand, Jonathan Toews, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. As expected, Pittsburgh came out sluggish in the first being outshot 12-5. But Oettinger showed his potential and kept them in the game 2-1 after 1.
In the 2nd period, it was time to shine for the young guns. Kakko connected for a goal, assisted by Turcotte and Boqvist with Glass chipping in a goal assisted by Howden.
In the 3rd period, the Penguins outshot the Devils 10-4 with Glass scoring another goal. Oettinger finished with a .933 save percentage, outplaying Aaron Dell, while Glass took home the first star.
The preseason thus far has made management and fans wonder if Kakko (2 goals in 3 games), Howden (3 points in 3 games), and Glass (2 goals in 3 games) are primed and ready for big years in their development this season.
"I would not be surprised if they all have big roles this season for us at the pro level," said Swackhammer. "Not only do we want to give them an opportunity but, c'mon...they are better than what we have as well."
After a solid showing tonight, Penguin fans are beginning to start to dream what it could look like in a few years...as long as their GM remembers to hit 'send'.