Penguins: Top Breakout Candidates For 2023-24

It’s now July 20th. Most of the big moves and signings have already been made, and fans have a basis on what each team is going to look like heading into next season. GM Kyle Dubas has done a great amount of work to reshape the Penguins team that failed to make the playoffs. With the moves he made come opportunities for some players to either have a breakout season or a bounce-back season. 

From prospects who are getting their big break to players who have struggled the last season or so, this list is my opinion on who the Pens could look forward to having for next season. 

Also, don’t forget this list is subject to change depending on what the Penguins do before the beginning of the season (*cough* Karlsson *cough*). But for now, let’s play the speculation game. 

Also, I did only put NHL players here. No prospects who have only played little to no NHL games. 

D Pierre-Olivier Joseph

POJ was the key piece in the return for Phil Kessel in 2019. Four years later, he looks ready to become a top-tier defenseman for the Pens. In his first full season last year, Joseph had five goals and 21 points in 75 games, which was a pretty respectable point total. However, next season should be a step up at least in his offensive game. He has the potential to break out as an important player next season. 

Joseph only averaged 15:15 of ice time per game last year, however, that should be a raise next year as well. He should get an opportunity on the power play and penalty kill as well next year. Whatever opportunities the Pens give him, POJ will have to make the most of whatever opportunities the Pens take him. 

G Alex Nedeljkovic 

Ned’s rookie season in Carolina looked very promising as he had a record of 15-5-0 with a .932 save percentage and a 1.90 goals-against average. However, since his rookie season, Ned is 25-31-11 in 79 games played with a .898 save percentage.

With the rumors of DeSmith being a piece of a potential deal for EK65, he could get a solid opportunity in the backup goalie position. If DeSmith does not get moved, the battle between him and Ned for the backup goalie could be fun to watch in training camp. 

F Alex Nylander

This is a player you probably expected on the list, and for good reason. After being acquired in 2022, Nylander has looked solid in the minors. Last season, he put up 25 goals and 50 points in 55 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL and had a goal and an assist in 9 games played with the main club. 

He has played in 93 NHL games with three teams already in his young career, scoring 14 goals and 34 points. If he gets put in the lineup full-time, he could help bolster the scoring in the bottom six. He can produce at just under a point per game and could become a valuable top 9 piece for the Pens next year. 

However, how these three players are used will determine their success. If put in the right spots, these three players have a chance to be very successful and important players in the Penguins’ playoff run next season. 

Nik Shermeto

PT ‘23 | 🇺🇸/🇨🇦 | Penguins writer for Inside The Rink | Thoughts are my own.

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