Which of the current Penguins can play top six roles?
Dupuis tallied 18 goals and 20 assists last season, good for 38 points. Dupuis started the season on the second line with Fedotenko and Malkin and slowly gravitated to all four lines throughout the season. Dupuis accumulated 13 of his 38 points with Sidney Crosby being involved, 10 were with Malkin, and 6 points came from playing with Jordan Staal.
Dupuis would be my top candidate for the first line. He's an extremely fast skater, he's got one of the hardest shots on the team, he's good on the forecheck and is an excellent back-checker.
I know a lot of Penguins fans do not want to break up the chemistry that Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, and Jordan Staal have created. But let's remember that Cooke is one of our better wingers on the team, despite his bottom-six role. Cooke has averaged 30 points in both of his seasons with the Penguins and has accumulated over 12+ goals each season.
Since the Penguins' first line already has Kunitz on the left wing, why not put Cooke with Malkin? Cooke provides good speed, great defensive qualities, decent scoring tough, and the courage to crash the net. Cooke would also provide a tremendous physical presence on the second line.
Kennedy always starts the season strong and ends up finishing below 40 points, maybe this year that will change. Kennedy has accumulated over 10 goals each of his three seasons in the NHL so far, Kennedy hasn't played over 70 games yet though and has been hampered by injuries.
Kennedy plays an abrasive, in-your-face style which I think would suit Crosby. He's a right-handed shot, a fast skater, has a fantastic work ethic, is tenacious on the forecheck, and is great in corners and along the boards. Kennedy would be another candidate for Crosby's line.
Talbot has had success with Evgeni Malkin in the past, and I chalked up his lackluster year last season due to injury. Talbot provides an oustanding amount of energy to a line, is very responsible defensively, has got a fantastic work ethic, is good in corners and along the boards, is a quick skater, and he can play all three forward positions.
Talbot would add speed to Malkin's line, as well as sound defensively qualities. Even though Talbot will probably not tally more than 35 points in an entire season wtih Malkin, he'll add the grit and speed that the second line needs.
Mike Rupp is a poor man's power forward. He's got great size, is a good skater for a man his size, he's shown that he has hands, and he brings a great physical presence as well as a good net presence. Rupp tallied 19 points last season (13G and 6A), seven of those 13 goals were assisted by Evgeni Malkin, and three were from Crosby.
Rupp would add size and physicality to the second line (That's where I'd put him), as well as decent hands. If Rupp can show the same determination he showed last season, maybe 15 goals is possible for this tough role-player.