Many pieces have helped the Pittsburgh Penguins regain the form of the Lemieux era. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, and Marc Andre Fleury are all key contributors to the newly rejuvenated Penguins squad.
I am writing this to highlight the players on the squad who are stars in their own rights but not yet on the level of Crosby or Malkin fame.
1. Jordan Staal
Jordan Staal is one of the most talented young players currently on the Penguins. He became the youngest player to score two shorthanded goals in one game on October 21st, 2006 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the very same game, he also became the youngest player to score a penalty shot.
As if having two records wasn't enough, he became the youngest player to record a hat trick on February 10th, 2007, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, at 18 years and 153 days. His influence isn't only felt on offense.
Staal plays strong defense and never gives up chasing down his man and getting back to help on defense. Though he isn't a goal scoring machine, Staal has stepped up in the playoffs, scoring six goals in last year's postseason run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2. Kris Letang
Kris Letang has become an integral part of the defense just as Jordan Staal has on offense. When Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar were placed on injured reserve at the beginning of this season, he helped fill in on a defense that was missing its two top defensemen.
Letang also contributed to the season and playoff run in 2007-2008. Letang had 17 points in 63 games in the 2007-08 season. He scored his first goal in the playoffs against the Washington Capitals on May 6, 2009. The goal was scored in overtime and was the game winning goal.
3. Tyler Kennedy
While he may not be the flashiest player on the ice, Tyler Kennedy certainly gets the job done. He goes hard for every puck, turning a 50-50 puck into a 70-30 for him. Many times he is able to create something out of nothing just by his hard work and continued perseverance during a play.
He scored his first goal in the NHL on November 3rd, 2007, six days after his NHL debut with the penguins.
4. Maxime Talbot
Max Talbot has been a special player ever since he played his rookie season back in 2005-06. He has played an important role in the penalty kill for Pittsburgh his whole career. Interestingly enough, he scored his first goal in the NHL from center ice.
Even though Talbot as sent back down to the minors in the 2005-06 season, he has been an integral part of the Pittsburgh rotation since being recalled after four games in the 2006-07 season.
Talbot has shone a great sense of humor throughout his time with the Penguins. Perhaps the most famous prank he pulled was in collaboration with Sidney Crosby.
Crosby had decided to skip an optional practice, so sent out Talbot out in his jersey. The crowd erupted when Talbot skated out, believing it to be Crosby. The cheers quickly quieted when they saw that Sid the Kid had a different face than usual.
His impact has been most felt in the playoffs last year, as he scored three goals and racked up nine assists. Talbot skates hard and has the right attitude and set of skills to one day be a very productive player for the Penguins.
Player To Watch:
Alex Goligoski has been in a constant state of flux with the Pittsbrugh Penguins, having been called up four times in two years. Goligoski has handled himself nicely when he was called up and has been sent down not because of poor play but because of the amount of talented guys already on defense.
Goligoski doesn't have the most physically imposing frame at 5'10" and 177 pounds. He does however have a good awareness and understanding of the game, and has the drive that coaches desire.
Goligoski has most recently been called up because of an injury to Sergei Gonchar. Goligoski has performed at a very high standard for the two playoff games that he has played in.