Potential 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins Bounce Back or Breakout Players

2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins
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Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. These players have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams this upcoming season. These players can be new faces or familiar ones looking to have a strong return to form. Each day we will be looking at a different team! Today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins key players. 

Potential 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins Candidates

Kasperi Kapanen

After being acquired by the Penguins over the summer, Pittsburgh is hoping that Kapanen can be the player that he was in 2018-19 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was the best season of his career as he had 20 goals and 44 points in 78 games.

NHL free agent frenzy

His GF percent was also at 54.2 percent that season, according to Natural Stat Trick which is his career-high. Even better, he had 229 high-danger chances for and 202 against that season which shows that he was helping to create numerous great scoring chances. Even his high-danger goals for of 38 to 25 against was the best of his career.

It didn’t stay that way this past season though as all of his numbers regressed. Kapanen had just 13 goals and 36 points in 69 games and his high-danger numbers plummeted to 155 chances for versus 164 against. The Penguins are hoping that a change of scenery for him will get his numbers back up to where they were a season ago.

Kapanen will also be likely starting the season with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel as that was the main reason for why Pittsburgh wanted him. He brings a lot of speed to the lineup and has an outstanding release. He can also eat a lot of minutes on the power play as that last spot on the top unit will likely come down to him or Bryan Rust.

Will he live up to the cost to acquire though? The Penguins gave up a top 15 pick in this year’s draft for him so they’re banking on his numbers going up while playing next to Crosby. If history is any indication (with players playing next to Crosby), he’s in line for a big bounce-back season.

Jared McCann

It was a tale of two seasons for McCann last year. He was absolutely electric in the first half of the season before finishing the season scoring one goal in his last 23 games. McCann also looked completely lost in the playoffs when he played on a third line with Patrick Marleau and Patric Hornqvist.

Despite that, his underlying numbers weren’t bad. His scoring-chances for versus scoring chances against were 327-313 and at high-danger, it was 27-16 in terms of goals for or goals against. This led to Geoff (G_Off817 on Twitter) from The Pensblog to write a piece about McCann’s season and why the Penguins were smart to bet on him despite his struggles.

Everyone knows McCann has to produce better to bounce back this season. But he also needs linemates that will stay with him for a long period of time. This past season, it would almost seem like every few games or so he would get new wingers which would just screw his mojo up.

During this offseason though, Pittsburgh went out and signed forward Mark Jankowski and Evan Rodrigues. They’re likely going to start with McCann on the third line whenever the season begins, too. Even though they’re more defensive-minded players, they can still chip in offence and help McCann get his game going again.

All of those factors, plus McCann putting the puck in the back of the net more often, point to McCann having a big bounce-back season for Pittsburgh.

Marcus Pettersson

Despite having two pretty good seasons under his belt, Pettersson is primed for a big breakout this season with Pittsburgh. He may be already pretty great at suppressing shots but his offensive game still needs to come around more.

Pettersson only had two goals and 22 points this past season; though his underlying numbers show that a lot more points could be on the way. This past season, his high-danger chances at 5V5 were 209 for and 183 against. The season before, it was 188 for and 131 against. He’s involving himself more in the offensive zone. He even had 480 scoring chances for and 433 against at 5V5.

His pairing with John Marino is a big reason for that and they have a shot to put up some outstanding numbers together during a full season. He’ll also have the opportunity to play some second power-play minutes as well.

His offensive-zone starts went up by 97 this past season. You’d have to think that number will go up even more this year as his offensive game continues to get better. A 35-40 point season isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him, even though this will be a shortened season due to COVID-19.

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