Predicting the Special Teams Units

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse

PK 1

Kuraly – Robinson
Gavrikov – Gudbranson

Checking line center Sean Kuraly is a fantastic penalty killer; he has size, speed, blocks shots, wins faceoffs, and can kill clock because he’ll win battles in the corners. He’s joined by linemate Eric Robinson, whose speed makes him effective in the defensive zone, and dangerous shorthanded. I have little doubt that these two will frustrate opposing power-play units on a regular basis because they’re both big and fast, and they work well together.

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Vladislav Gavrikov is the team’s best stay-at-home defenseman, and his play will be vital to the success of their PK this season. He has strong gap control, blocks shots, and can clear the way for goaltenders to see the puck. I think he’ll be joined by newcomer Erik Gudbranson because he can help mask some of Erik’s shortcomings. Gudbranson is signed here to be a mean, take-no-prisoners in front of the net defenseman; pairing him with Vlad here means that they can keep things simple and not try to do too much. Just be physical, block shots, and clear pucks.

PK 2

Jenner – Danforth
Werenski – Peeke

Captain Boone Jenner appears on the penalty kill, leading the charge on the team’s second unit. While not the best skater in the world, Boone wins faceoffs, plays hard in the corners, and keeps his body in the shot lanes. Putting Justin Danforth opposite means you add speed and a touch of skill to this unit. Danforth is a hockey veteran whose motor turns all the time – I could see him emerging as a terrific penalty killer and a serious shorthanded threat because of his finishing ability.

Mandatory Credit: Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Werenski is probably not best suited in this PK role, but even with his shortcomings defensively, he’s one of the team’s best options. This is the one area of Zach’s game that I would love to see improvement on; we know he can score and chip in offensively, but if he could lock down his defensive zone play, we’d have a truly elite defenseman here. And probably an extra handful of points in the standings. I have Andrew Peeke joining him here; he’s probably the second best pure defender on the team. He led the team in blocked shots last season and returns this year stronger, with an eye towards becoming more physical and better defensively. Improved play from Peeke could mean a ton to this team’s overall defensive output – especially on the PK.

The PK units might cripple this team if an injury occurs to one of these players, they’re simply short on defensive minded players. Imagine Jenner struggling with another back injury … who becomes the center on that second unit? Defensively, the situation might even be worse; do we really want Jake Bean or Adam Boqvist on one of these units again?

Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

In all, I do think the the team will see improvement from both the power-play, and penalty kill units this season. They’ve added key pieces that should be able to help on both sides of things. If that first power-play unit clicks, they could be one of the top units in the entire league. There’s some serious talent here, and it’s a refreshing change from recent years. Good teams can become great teams on the back of strong special teams play – if they can find success in these situations, this team will be dangerous. Read: Five Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse