Penguins: Joseph is delighted with the return of Letang and Malkin

MONTREAL – From a purely hierarchical point of view, Pierre-Olivier Joseph is one of those who would have benefited from a major cleaning at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The great 23-year-old defender is at the gates of the National League. He has already tasted it with lip service with sixteen and four-game internships in recent years. He now has three seasons of professional hockey experience. He knocks on the door. It would certainly have opened if general manager Ron Hextall had decided to liquidate some veterans, as he was told he intended at the start of the off-season, and to rejuvenate his workforce.

That’s not what was done. Hextall eventually brought in Kristopher Letang and Evgeni Malkin, signed Rickard Rakell to a long-term contract, enticed Jan Rutta into the free agent market, and acquired Jeff Petry. So there will be no rebuilding in Pittsburgh, at least not in the near future…and Joseph is happy about that.

« I couldn’t be happier, I’ll tell you, » he said this week before taking part in the second week of LSHL* activities. With all the players coming back, it’s fun to gain experience from those players. Especially from a nice trio like [Malkin, Letang et Sidney Crosby], I don’t think you’re going to see that in any other sport or even hockey. Learning from these guys is masterful. I haven’t spent a lot of time with Pittsburgh, but just the time I have, it’s phenomenal to be able to take experience from these players. I couldn’t be happier to have them back. »

Joseph, a first-round pick from the Arizona Coyotes who the Penguins got in 2019 by parting ways with Phil Kessel, is especially grateful for the return of Letang, who has been a mentor to him since his transfer.

« He’s really been a big brother to me for the past three years. The second I got there, it was the texts, the calls, the dinners, all the little things that put people at ease. I couldn’t be happier to have him by my side and be able to watch him. For me, he is a model of youth, a player will end up in the Hall of Fame. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him! But I’m really happy to be able to meet him. »

dormant calculations

Reconstruction or not, Joseph, who himself just signed a new two-year contract, is likely to make the full-time jump to the NHL next year.

To occupy the left side of their brigade, the Penguins currently rely on veterans Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Pettersson as safe bets. Young Ty Smith, a former New Jersey Devils first-round pick traded to John Marino earlier this summer, becomes a potential candidate to round out that half of the top-6. At 22, he has already played 114 games in the NHL.

On the right, the responsibilities seem already distributed with the presence of Letang, Petry and Rutta. The competition will be fierce for anyone who wishes to interfere in this unit. But these are calculations that Joseph does not want to tangle with at this time.

“This summer, for real, I’m taking it one step at a time, one practice at a time, one presence on the ice at a time. I’m like, ‘Why pressure me when camp is just two months away?’ I just want to have the best summer possible to gain physical strength, experience in the gym, on the ice. But I also want to have time with my family and friends, who I don’t see much. I really don’t think about what happens at the organizational level. I know, it’s easy to say that! I still see passing [les nouvelles], but I’m just trying to get to camp as ready as possible to make my place this year. »

Joseph played 61 games last season in the American League. He scored ten goals, a plateau he hadn’t reached since his penultimate season in the QMJHL, and collected a total of 33 points. He also added five points in six playoff games.

“It really helped me to be in the American League, for real I have no complaints for any reason, he judges in retrospect. I was able to take a few young people who came under my wing. As much as I hope they could learn from me, I really learned from them. Overall it was really a great season of experience and learning. While being ‘up and down’ a bit, I can take the lessons learned from the older ones coming back to the American League. Of course we always want to aim a little higher, but in general I’m really happy. »

*The LSHL is for all high-level hockey players, men and women, who want to play summer hockey in a competitive environment. The women’s 3-on-3 games are played on Mondays at 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. while the men are in action on Tuesday evenings at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. at Hockey Etcetera in Montreal. 5-on-5 games are played at the Complexe sportif Guimond in Laval on Friday mornings. Tickets can be purchased through the Living Sisu mobile app. All proceeds go to the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation of Canada.

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