Josh Yohe of The Athletic speculated last night about the potential final lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins, specifically who will secure the 12th and 13th forward positions. With numerous options in their bottom six, the Penguins have narrowed down their choices to a select few players. According to Yohe, the third and fourth lines should feature Jeff Carter, Lars Eller, Drew O’Connor, Matthew Nieto, and Noel Acciari. This leaves only two spots remaining, as the Penguins typically carry 13 forwards.
Yohe believes that the final two spots will be contested by three players: Radim Zohorna, recent waiver pickup Jansen Harkins, and Colin White, who is currently on a professional tryout (PTO) contract. Harkins, in particular, has caught Yohe’s attention. Acquired off waivers on Monday, Harkins is 26 years old and could be considered a late bloomer. He scored an impressive 25 goals in 44 AHL games last season and has appeared in 154 NHL games throughout his career. Harkins has also brought physicality to the pre-season games, an aspect that the Penguins have been lacking.
On the other hand, Zohorna has journeyed through various teams in the league since arriving in North America in 2020. He has previous experience with the Penguins, as well as stints with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs. Although his NHL numbers of 5 goals and 6 assists in 35 games may not immediately stand out, Zohorna has excelled in the pre-season and brings size to the team, standing at an imposing 6’6″ and weighing 230 pounds.
In Yohe’s assessment, Harkins and Zohorna are the most likely candidates to secure the final two spots on the Penguins’ NHL roster. However, he acknowledges that White is a talented NHL player with potential. As a former first-round pick, White has recorded 44 goals and 69 assists in 292 NHL games. Given the Penguins’ limited scoring options in the bottom six, White could provide a valuable offensive contribution.
It is worth noting that any player released by the Penguins is likely to find opportunities elsewhere, adding an element of intrigue to the team’s roster decisions as they strive to maximize their forward depth and retain as many players as possible. The Penguins will begin their season on October 10th against the Chicago Blackhawks, requiring them to finalize their lineup prior to the start of the season.
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