The 23-man roster for Saturday’s opener is set as the Penguins made a handful of moves on Thursday afternoon.
Among the most critical roster moves made Thursday, the Penguins sent wingers Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna back to AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and placed center Philippe Dupuis and defenseman Brian Strait on waivers.
Defenseman Simon Despres remains will remain with the Penguins.
Let’s take a look at the moves and how they impact the Penguins going forward.
Bennett had an impressive camp and only increased his stock last night with a nifty goal in the first period of the Black and Gold game. Bennett was thought to be a contender to play on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, but will begin this season in the AHL.
While fans are sad to see the young play-making forward go, he is still rather unpolished and a little under his ideal playing weight. Bennett will get top-line minutes in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and have more time to develop. Undoubtedly he will be on the short-list of possible candidates to take over a roster spot should one of Pittsburgh’s top-six forwards suffer an injury.
Who? That’s what many Pens fans were asking when he showed up to camp Sunday morning. But the smooth-skating 22-year-old acquitted himself nicely in his first NHL training camp, exhibiting solid vision and passing skills accompanied by soft hands.
Megna has been fighting a high-ankle sprain this season and subsequently has dressed for only 19 games for the Baby Pens this season and was never a legitimate threat to crack the 23-man roster. Along with Bennett, Megna will get mega-minutes in the AHL and be a threat to NHL goaltenders as early as next season.
Dupuis finds himself on waivers with no options left. Dupuis was not heard from much in camp and his demotion is certainly no surprise. The Penguins have somewhat of a log-jam at center and despite Dupuis experience in the NHL with the Avalance and Maple Leafs, he will find himself starting this season in the AHL (lest he should be claimed).
Dupuis possesses strong defensive instincts for a forward and is primarily a third or fourth liner who can handle some penalty killing duties. No doubt Ray Shero brought him to the Penguins as Brandon Sutter insurance policy. Dupuis is versatile and can play all three forward positions making him an ideal fill-in should one of Pittsburgh’s bottom-six forwards succumb to injury.
Strait is an NHL-ready defenseman, yet he finds himself on waivers this afternoon in a move that surprised many. Strait didn’t have an fantastic camp, but he certainly didn’t do anything to dispel the notion that he can play successfully at the NHL level. With the preponderance of players being released today there is a chance Strait will slip through waivers unclaimed, but I wouldn’t count on it.
If Dupuis and Strait are not claimed by 12:00pm tomorrow they will head back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Simon Despres remains on the NHL roster to the dismay of many. When watching him play in the Black and Gold game last night, one was left with the impression that he simply is not playing well enough to have earned an NHL assignment. Paired with Kris Letang, Depres was embarrassed by Brandon Sutter as Sutter stickhandled between the two and threaded a silky pass to linemate Matt Cooke for a goal.
Let that sink in. Brandon Sutter dangled past Letang and Despres and passed to Matt Cooke for a goal. Not ideal.
Clearly one scrimmage is not enough to completely evaluate Despres, but this falls in line with way he has played this season in the AHL. He is far from the future top-two prospect he was just a season ago.
With eight defensemen on the roster, Despres will have to earn his spot in this lineup.