Pittsburgh Penguins: Predicting which “black aces” will make the cut

Casey DeSmith #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Casey DeSmith #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

With the NHL moving to phase 3 in July, and the expected roster expansion to go up to 28, which “black aces” will make the roster for the Pittsburgh Penguins?

With the new playoff format comes new rumors to the rosters. It’s unknown the amount of Pittsburgh Penguins will get to travel to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but we do already know that they will be trying out a few different “black aces.” Who will make the expanded team? We don’t know, but we are going to do our best to predict them.

To help reference the term, black aces are Penguins players (typically from the AHL or CHL) that can or will practice with the Pens during the NHL Playoffs. The hopeful few will be eligible to play in the games, but they will primarily serve as extra players or the opposition during practices.

From back to front, let’s breakdown who some of the “black aces” are and which ones might ultimately make the team next month.

In net, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a few excellent options as well as some strong push from the younger players. Predominantly, their choices will either be to add Casey DeSmith or Emil Larmi. Before the season, many expected DeSmith to end up being the backup netminder, however, here we are, and that hasn’t happened.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Predicting which “black aces” will make the cut

He is the more experienced of the two, but Larmi comes with all of the hype. Coming in at 4th on the depth chart, he would have to turn up the heat to make the roster. I think in this case, we will see Casey DeSmith make the team, and Emil Larmi will be in between the pipes during practices.

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Moving up to the blue-line, and we find a few newer, almost unrecognizable names on the list. Juuso Riikola might be considered a “black ace,” but a few other baby Penguins are fighting for there right. The youngest defender, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, made a strong case for himself this year, but his size and inexperience may come into question.

Names that are more likely to make the team will be the ones of Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky. Trotman has proven his worth a few times this year, and the staff has shown their interest in him more than once. For Warsofsky, he has the experience. Experience is about it, as the offensive defender posted a terrible +/- this season in the AHL of -33.

Out of these three defenders, I think we will only see, at best, one of them. The ace to make our cut is Zach Trotman. Finally, moving up to the attack and we find plenty of talent. Familiar AHL names like Kevin RoyThomas Di Pauli, and Adam Johnson have proven there worth. With them, a youngster that brings Sid like hype with him. That youngster is Samuel Poulin.

All three of the AHL forwards have had experience in the NHL. Although a small sample size, they at least have it. As far as Poulin goes, he’s as green as they come. It’s hard to sit here and compare him to Sidney Crosby, but they have a lot of similarities. He’s only 19 years old but is well experienced beyond his years.

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From this group of aces, we predict that three of them will make the roster. Roy, Johnson, and Poulin all show the attacking nature needed and, if given the shot, would be at least able to make a go from it. The others will undoubtedly get a chance on the practice squad, and you never know what can happen from there.