It may have cost Evgeni Malkin his dream winger but in trading James Neal to the Nasvhille Predators at the NHL draft the Pittsburgh Penguins may have acquired the perfect right winger for Sidney Crosby.
With all due respect to Pascal Dupuis, who when lined up with Crosby and Chris Kunitz formulated one of the best lines in the entire league, the acquisition of Patric Hornqvist has not only already paid big dividends early in the year but thinking of the long-term partnership that could be had should get Penguins fans excited.
If there was a mold to shape a perfect right winger for Crosby, Hornqvist would be its latest creation. A gritty, right-handed shot that can post up and shoot as well as get dirty in front of the net, the last pick of the same draft that produced Crosby, Hornqvist has wasted no time gelling with his new line mates, already scoring goals in each of the first two games.
In fact, Crosby and Hornqvist have combined for five goals on the young season – and one has assisted on the other’s goal three of the five times. More so, they have been on the ice together for four of the five and five of the seven times they have registered a point.
When Bill Guerin was in Pittsburgh, playing in a total 130-games including both the regular season and post season, he scored 37 goals in that span. Of those 37 goals, Crosby assisted on 21 of those (56%) and 16 of those 21 were the primary assist (43%).
The Crosby-Hornqvist combination has the potential to be just as dangerous as Crosby-Guerin, especially when you throw in Kunitz ,who is coming off a 30-goal season and produced at over a point-per-game pace two years ago during the lockout-shortened season.
Early returns have been great; the line has been flying around and is incredibly hard to bump off the puck once they get the puck down low. It is certainly refreshing to have a skilled top-six winger with a right hand shot that can stay in the lineup (hopefully joined by Beau Bennett someday) and produce.
More importantly (especially come playoff time) is to have that gritty presence at the wing who isn’t afraid of contact and battling in front of the net. Hornqvist scored 30 goals his first full season in the NHL, it’s hard to imagine him not having a great opportunity to match and/or top that mark.
Now in his tenth NHL season, Crosby has been paired up with a wide range of right wingers. Marian Hossa was the organization’s first real attempt at finding a permanent player, Guerin was a temporary (and effective) fix, and now finally they may have found one that can stick in Hornqvist.
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