The Penguins management played it safe to open Free Agency, adding bottom six depth options to replace Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann. No move so far has been considered a big splash, but the two most notable signings, Brock McGinn and Danton Heinen, have a chance to make a significant impact. I went back and watched all of their goal scoring highlights from this past season to give you a better look at what these players are bringing to Pittsburgh. Thanks to Palmer Sports on Youtube for the goal compilations. Full video links at the end of the article.
The big acquisition of Ron Hextall’s first free agency, Brock McGinn signed a 4 year contract with an annual average salary of $2.75 million. He has big shoes to fill after Brandon Tanev’s departure to the Seattle Kraken, but will he be up to the challenge? McGinn scored 8 goals in 37 regular season games and added 3 more in the postseason. It remains to be seen if he will be placed on Teddy Blueger’s line or if he’ll play next to Jeff Carter. Either way, the Penguins are relying on McGinn to add a sorely needed spark to the bottom of their lineup.
Getting to the Dirty Areas for the Penguins
McGinn can be classified as a grinding, bottom six forward and his offensive work reflects that. Nearly all of his goals last season came from the “dirty areas” of the ice, specifically between the face-off dots and near the net. He gets to the soft spots near the crease and often pays the price for it. It’s easy to see how he slots in for Tanev in that respect. Take a look at 1:24 of the video, down below.
In the clip, Brock McGinn finds his way to an open area near the crease and is rewarded with a juicy rebound to bury. Note also his commitment to the puck is excellent as he stretches out and falls to the ice to finish the play. This kind of hockey is exactly the injection of energy this team needs next season. The Penguins desperately needed a cheap goal in their first round exit against the Islanders and couldn’t make it happen. They were always on the wrong side of those bounces. Watching McGinn’s tape, he seems like a guy good things happen to with his natural tendency to get towards the front of the net.
Penguins Net Front Presence?
At 2:19 of the video, we see McGinn’s best traits mixed with an underrated skill: soft hands in tight. In this play, Carolina forward Teuvo Teravainen threads a pass across the slot that McGinn taps home for the goal. Before he receives the pass, he’s doing all of the little things right. McGinn finds an unoccupied area of the ice and moves to it. He then smartly opens himself up and makes himself available for a pass from Teravainen. Once the puck arrives, he skillfully redirects the pass into the net while moving away from the crease. This is an all-around excellent play, displaying high IQ and an impressive scoring touch from a grinder. I wonder, could he be a potential sleeper option for the power play? I’d let him have a shot at being the net-front player on the PP1 to allow Guentzel more freedom. Especially after seeing McGinn’s tape from last season, I think he’ll be a welcomed addition to this squad.
Danton Heinen scored 7 goals in 49 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season. He is a 26 year old forward, capable of playing both the left and right wings. He’s a player with several good but not exceptional traits. The best example of this is the first goal of his 2020-2021 highlight reel.
In the clip, Heinen strips the Arizona forward (Drake Cagguila) of the puck with his long reach, stifling his breakout attempt. He then corrals the puck onto his stick, looking for options, before beating Darcy Kuemper high blocker side. This is a great play all around. He doesn’t dazzle with skill or overwhelm with his sniping abilities, but he’s rewarded for the work he puts in. That’s been my reaction to all of his highlights. When he’s on, he’s able to forecheck well and create chances off of that. He’s similar to McGinn in that regard. Both players are also capable of scoring those gritty goals, something the Penguins want to improve upon this season.
An Underrated Shooter
Danton Heinen is a solid two-way player. If he can find more offensive touch, he’ll be a great addition to this team. One of the skills I’m most intrigued to see is his shooting ability. Let’s take a look at 1:48 of this video to see what perks my interest.
In this play, Heinen joins the offensive zone pressure from the bench. Using his burst of speed, he freezes the goaltender and snaps the puck under the blocker side for the goal. In the clip you can see his deceptive and quick release, something no one seems to mention about him. Because of this, I’m intrigued by the possibility of him on the second power play. If he can find more consistency with his shot, I expect Heinen to see a boost to his offensive numbers.
There’s no denying the restrictions the Penguin’s cap situation placed on GM Hextall this off-season. With little free money, he’s added several players into the mix that can be contributors next year. This team is desperate for another run at Lord Stanley. To do so, they’ll need support from unexpected contributors like Heinen or McGinn. They might not be all-stars, but if management is right, there’s reason for optimism about the Penguins players coming in. Perhaps there’s even more than you think.