With a new general manager and a new head coach in town, the Penguins Penguins are ready for change. They want a new identity, a fresh look now that the Stanley Cup-winning team from 2009 is long gone . First-round pick Kasperi Kapanen is a perfect example of that new identity.
Kapanen has impressed everyone at Penguins prospect camp. New assistant coach Rick Tocchet considers Kapanen to be a legitimate candidate for a spot in the top six, something that has been echoed throughout the whole organization including Jim Rutherford. Kapanen is a classic high-end talent with great speed, athleticism and stickhandling ability, but it is maturity to the game that have made people starting talking about a potential spot right next to superstar Sidney Crosby. “He’s even better than I thought he would be. So I was very happy with him. He’s just high-end talent, high-end speed. He’s a very, very mature kid for his age. Obviously, having his father [Sami Kapanen] playing so many years in the NHL and playing with him and brining him up that way, he’s already a pro,” said Penguins new associate general manager Bill Guerin during Penguins’ development camp.
One thing that could pave the way for the young Fin is Jim Rutherford and Mike Johntsons’ new puck possession attitude. They desire all players to be good with the puck, therefore not lining up with skilled players in the top six and grinders in the bottom. Even if Kapanen does not claim a the top six spot, there is a bigger chance of him making the roster than in the old system lead by Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma.
From the sound of it, Pittsburgh’s new playing style seems much more attractive for a hockey lover than the old one. And we are talking about a team that has been one of the most goal-scoring teams in the league during the past five seasons. The new identity may take a while to adapt to and all the pieces may not work out, but the feel of the situation in Pittsburgh right now is good. Everyone seems to be on the same page and buying in to the new way of life. General manager Jim Rutherford may have to go out and get some reinforcements in March or even earlier, but hopefully there won’t be too much of a roller coaster ride this season.