The Pittsburgh Penguins rookies are set to begin their stay at the 2016 Rookie Tournament in London, Ont. today with their first game coming against the Montréal Canadiens.
Other than the fact that the puck drops for Game 1 of the tournament at 3:35 p.m., here’s what you need to know for the matchup:
Zach Fucale and Tristan Jarry were the first two goalies selected at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal and Pittsburgh, respectively. It’s fair to assume both goalies will get the start today, as their pegged as both organization’s AHL affiliate preseason No. 1 netminders. Both goalies were exceptional at the junior level and showed flashes of greatness last year in the AHL. Fucale’s statistics suffered a bit more than Jarry’s playing for a sub-.500 team last year in St. John’s, but the fact of the matter is, these are two goalies that have high ceilings and ones that their respective organizations still hold in high regard since drafting them three years ago.
HABS HAVE OFFENSIVE WEAPONS
The Penguins defense will be tasked with slowing down the likes of Nikita Scherbak, Mike McCarron and Artturi Lehkonen. Scherbak, Montréal’s first round pick in 2014, was has come out and said he was disappointed with his offensive output in his first AHL season last year with St. John’s, and the rookie tournament seems like the perfect place for his speed and skill to take over and start the year on the right foot. McCarron, on the other hand, enjoyed his rookie campaign with the IceCaps. The Canadiens’ first round choice in 2013 and gargantuan forward racked up 38 points (17G-21A) in the AHL as well as an NHL stint with Montréal in his first year as a pro. The plan is for Lehkonen, 21, to come over to North America this upcoming season after leading Swedish Hockey League champion Frölunda in goals (11) during the playoffs and tying for the team lead in overall postseason points (19). Penguins blue liner and Lehkonen’s Frölunda teammate Lukas Bengtsson has made his offensive skills very evident at development camp and again in yesterday’s practice, but now we’ll get a glimpse of what the smooth-skating rearguard can offer in defensive situations.
In the past, this tournament has seen a fair share of penalties and fights as players can sometimes get a little too overzealous in their first game action of the year while simultaneously trying to leave the best impression possible on scouts. With new rules introduced in the AHL this coming season that reflect similar changes made at the Canadian major junior level two years ago, the actual number of gloves dropped throughout the tournament might take a dip. That said, that’s a mighty big “might”, though. You might not want to bet on cooler heads to prevailing in Game 1.
Make sure to check back here all weekend long for game previews, game recaps, and player stories while the Penguins are in London!