As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, the fantasy hockey staff identifies relevant players from the Pittsburgh Penguins. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.
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Sidney Crosby, C (NHL.com rank: 9) -- The elite center reached the 100-point mark (35 goals, 65 assists in 79 games last season) for the sixth time of his NHL career. Crosby also covered power-play points (29), shots on goal (220), plus/minus (plus-18), hits (85) and brings added value in face-off wins (1,012; fifth in NHL). With a chance to not only play with wing Jake Guentzel at even strength but also on the first power play, Crosby should be targeted beginning with the No. 6 overall pick in standard fantasy leagues.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Crosby
Evgeni Malkin, C (38) -- The center was better than a point per game (72 points in 68 games) for the eighth straight season. The only concerns surrounding his value are injuries (missed at least 13 games in five of past six seasons) and his plus/minus (NHL career-worst minus-25). Malkin has a chance to play on a line with offseason acquisition Alex Galchenyuk (acquired from Arizona Coyotes on June 29) at even strength, and his fixated spot on the first power play makes him a lock to have at least 80 points, 30 PPP and 200 SOG if healthy.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Malkin's shot deflects in for PPG
Jake Guentzel, LW/RW (41) -- The wing had a breakout season skating with Crosby at even strength, scoring an NHL-career high 40 goals and 76 points with nearly three SOG per game (2.8). After valuable right wing Phil Kessel was traded to the Coyotes, Guentzel will likely be elevated to the first power play with Crosby, Malkin and elite defenseman Kris Letang, giving Guentzel a higher ceiling (11 PPP last season; 12 in 2017-18). Guentzel has a high shooting percentage in his NHL career (16.3 in 204 games) and staying power among the top 50 overall with strong coverage of hits (1.5 per game).
Kris Letang, D (48) -- He's annually among the top 10 fantasy defenseman rankings and was one of the most valuable options at the position last season despite missing 17 games. He was tied for eighth in scoring among defensemen (56 points) and ranked eighth at the position with 206 SOG. Letang has had at least 51 points, 19 PPP and 197 SOG in four of his past five seasons, so fantasy owners can expect him to match or exceed those numbers if healthy for most of the season and provide strong coverage of hits (116 in 65 games).
Matt Murray, G (70) -- He had 29 wins in an NHL career-high 50 games (all starts) with a 2.69 goals-against average and .919 save percentage last season. Murray has had at least 27 wins and 49 games played in each of his three full seasons; he has 88 wins in that span (tied with Carey Price for 10th in NHL) despite injuries. Fantasy owners can reasonably expect Murray, who's 12th in NHL.com's fantasy goalie rankings, to have above-average peripherals and set an NHL career high in wins (32 in 2016-17).
Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Murray
Patric Hornqvist, RW (176) -- He dipped in production last season (37 points; 49 in 2017-18) despite skating mostly with Malkin at even strength and seeing significant time on the first power play (12 PPP in 69 games). Hornqvist provides consistent coverage of SOG (at least 197 in each of nine full seasons) and hits (1.5 per game in NHL career). Even if Hornqvist is moved off the first power play in favor of Guentzel and/or Galchenyuk, the right wing should at least play in the top six with Malkin or Crosby after Kessel departure.
Alex Galchenyuk, C/LW (177) -- The forward covered PPP for the second straight year (21 with Coyotes; 24 with Montreal Canadiens in 2017-18) but will now be playing for his third team in as many seasons. If Galchenyuk plays wing in the top six with Malkin or Crosby and is utilized on PP1 with both centers, he could have his best season yet in a contract year (potential 2020 unrestricted free agent). Galchenyuk, who had NHL career highs in goals (30) and points (56) in 2015-16 with the Canadiens, is a prime fantasy sleeper candidate.
Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Galchenyuk
Other players to consider in late rounds or off waiver wire: Justin Schultz, D (243); Nick Bjugstad, C/RW; Dominik Kahun, LW/RW; Jared McCann, C/LW; Bryan Rust, LW/RW; Casey DeSmith, G; Zach Aston-Reese, LW/RW
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