While Pittsburgh defenseman Derrick Pouliot is hoping for a much better start to this season (including a regular spot in the lineup), that might be a tall task for him to achieve, notes Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pouliot went into training camp last season with the expectations that he would become a regular player but instead was cut and spent most of the year with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Pouliot wound up getting into just 22 regular season games with the Penguins plus a pair of postseason contests, collecting seven assists along the way. He was much more productive at the AHL level, scoring six goals and 17 assists in just 37 games.
While the departure of Ben Lovejoy to New Jersey potentially opens up a spot on their blueline, the team also brought back Justin Schultz who was acquired at the trade deadline who now figures to play a regular role. Both of those players are right hand shots while Pouliot is a lefty but the 22 year old spent time on the right side at the junior level, making him an option on both sides. When asked about possibly playing his off-side (much like Trevor Daley does), Pouliot noted that, “It’s something I’m comfortable with, and, if it’s a spot I could fit in, that’d be great.”
On his natural side, Pouliot will be looking to displace Ian Cole on the third pairing but Cole brings a physical element to the Penguins’ lineup, something that some of their other rearguards don’t bring to the table.
Further creating a challenge for Pouliot was Pittsburgh’s decision to bring in David Warsofsky, Steven Oleksy, Stuart Percy, Cameron Gaunce, and Chad Ruhwedel during free agency. All five of those players have NHL experience and could potentially push for a spot as well. On top of that, all of the newcomers are waiver eligible while Pouliot is exempt for this season so he could find himself a victim of a numbers game if one or more of those offseason additions impress in training camp.
Pouliot has long been regarded as one of Pittsburgh’s defensemen of the future but he will be in tough to secure a top six role with the team this season.
[Related: Penguins Depth Chart]
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- Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is poised to have a breakout season, writes Jason Mackey, also of the Post-Gazette. The 25 year old saw his ice time jump to over 21 minutes a game in the postseason while playing a top four role, one he is expected to reprise in 2016-17. While he didn’t score during the season last year, he picked up a pair of postseason goals including the opening tally in their Stanley Cup clinching victory over San Jose. Dumoulin is entering the final season of a two year deal that carries a cap hit of $800K and should be in line for a sizable raise on his next contract. If GM Jim Rutherford expects him to have a big season offensively, it wouldn’t be surprising if he tries to get an extension done sooner than later.