The Pittsburgh Penguins are still on cloud nine after putting together an impressive 2017/2018 campaign. This should be to no surprise as it is every NEFHL's players dream to hoist the most coveted trophy in sports over their head. Through thirteen glorious years, the NEFHL has had two repeat Stanley Cup Champions. Drew Phillips and the Kings proved naysayers wrong by winning back to back cups in 2009 and 2010. The almighty Phil Lanthier led the powerhouse Blues to consecutive titles in 2012 and 2013. As the Stanley Cup hangover begins to wear off, NEFHL enthusiasts can't help but question whether the flightless birds can do it all again.
The club sent shockwaves throughout the league after swinging a blockbuster deal at the draft with the Flames. A trade that sent assistant captain and Conn Smyth winner Claude Giroux to Calgary in exchange for Ryan Spooner, Will Butcher, Brett Howden and Calgary's 1st round pick (Isac Lundestrom). The Pens faithful was voiced their displeasure towards the move and one can't help but feel their pain given how instrumental he was for the club. Giroux had been an essential piece of the puzzle since being acquired in 2013. Many Penguin die hards argue that G was the teams marquee player during this time, surpassing even Sidney Crosby.
"There is no question we will miss Claude. He is virtually irreplaceable so it will take a team effort to fill his shoes," stated head coach Dan Bylsma.
Many turn their attention to Bo Horvat as "the guy" to replace Giroux. His ability to play at both ends of the rink and produce offensively should help to soften the blow.
"I have been working my tail off this summer. I know the coaching staff and fans have high expectations of me this year. I hope to not disappoint." said the young centremen.
In an attempt to stay strong down the middle, the Penguins pulled the trigger on a deal that sent goalie prospect Ian Scott and $2,000,000 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for two-way pivot, Brandon Sutter.
"Brandon has more cup rings than any other player on our squad and that speaks volumes. He plays a 200 foot game and is capable of moving up and down our lineup," said assistant GM Bill Guerin.
Projected Lineup for 2018/2019
Brock Nelson - Sidney Crosby - Ryan Spooner
Jeff Skinner - Bo Horvat - Tyler Toffoli
Carl Hagelin - Brandon Sutter - Riley Nash
Tom Kuhnhackl - Torrey Mitchell - Riley Sheahan
John Moore - Seth Jones
Adam Larsson - Will Butcher
Jonas Brodin - Alex Petrovic