You are currently witnessing the birth of a new hockey dynasty in Pittsburgh and if ownership plays it’s cards right, it could be one for over a decade. 21 year old Sidney Crosby and 22 year old Evgeni Malkin, two of the last three Art Ross Trophy winners are a tandem like modern day hockey has never seen.
Evgeni Malkin was drafted 2nd over in 2004, and many suggested he would have been the #1 overall except for the fact that the “when and if” he was coming to play in the NHL was up in the air. Sidney Crosby was one of the most highly sought after draft picks in the last 10 years and was drafted #1 overall the year after Malkin was drafted.
Solidifying the Penguins as the #1 team down the middle was the 2006 #2 overall draft pick 20 year old Jordan Staal. Staal is the youngest player ever to record a hat trick and he set the record for rookie short handed goals. In 2007 Staal was invited to play in the NHL YoungStars Game.
In net the Penguins have the 2003 #1 overall pick in 24 year old goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a guy who is currently on pace to surpass Martin Brodeur’s records for wins and has already led his team to the Stanley Cup finals.
On defense the Penguins have two extremely dynamic young guns who are just starting to come around in 22 year old Kris Letang and 23 year old Alex Goligoski.
Letang has won gold medals in the World Junior Championships in 2006 and was team captain when he won 2007 having 6 points in 6 games. He was also selected to be in the NHL YoungStars Game this year. Goligoski led his team the WBS Penguins to the AHL Calder Cup Trophy last year and not only was the WBS Penguins leading scorer, but finished 2nd overall in the AHL in the playoffs.
Between 2003 and 2006 the Penguins had two first overall draft picks and two second overall draft picks, something that should be impossible in this day and age of salary caps and lottery balls.
The Penguins are the first team since Detroit in 1996 to advance to the semi-finals the year after losing in the finals. This current run is also Very eerily similar to the Edmonton Oiler team in the 1980’s that knocked the Islanders off their 4 year Stanley cup run back in the early 80’s after losing to them in the finals the year before. Coincidentally, the Edmonton Oilers were the last team to win a game seven on the road by four or more goals.
Ray Shero the Penguins GM has brought in a young dynamic coach 38 year old Dan Bylsma who’s aggressive play and his loosening the reigns on the top players has turned this season around and has turned the players attitudes around. With Bylsma running the team for a whole season, who knows what this team and these players are capable of.
The Penguins management have assembled a cast of great players like Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy, Brooks Orpik and many others who are willing to take a little less to stay on a winning team, something that will prove to be very important with the salary cap.
“A guy like Ryan Malone, if he had to do it all over again, he’d take a lot less to stay here, I know at the trade deadline, he was begging to come back here.” Orpik said. “A lot of the guys who have left feel that way. The older guys, Gary Roberts, Darryl Sydor, Mark Recchi, used to tell me we have something special here. I think the commitment level, the camaraderie level, that this group of guys has is unique in sports.”
With the age of the core group of Penguin Players being under 25, this is just the start of what will become one of the NHL’s most storied franchises.