Young Penguins Forward is Star in the Making

The Pittsburgh Penguins may have a new star in the making with a key young forward.

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins have quite a few on-ice personnel decisions to make this offseason, but one player finally proved he can be a true star at the NHL level. For the first time in his career, Drew O’Connor played a full season with the Penguins and didn’t see a single game at the AHL level.

In a career-high 79 games played, O’Connor showed he is a full-fledged NHLer and has what it takes to play with some of the best in the world. O’Connor also set career highs in goals and points with 16 and 33, respectively.

The Penguins fought valiantly down the stretch but fell just short of reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. O’Connor’s late-season work is a big reason for that. After getting paired up with Sidney Crosby on the first line, O’Connor went to work as a threat in every facet of the sport.

Twice in the final 12 games of the season, O’Connor scored in three straight games, including a huge short-handed tally against the Boston Bruins and a game-winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Playing alongside Crosby helped O’Connor find his game but also helped fill a void left by Jake Guentzel following the trade deadline. O’Connor said playing with Crosby was special and that he had learned a lot about his game.

At the beginning of the season, it was clear that O’Connor possessed a lot of size and speed but was never sure how to use it. Setting up on the first line with Crosby helped him hone his craft and made him a lethal and confident player on the ice.

Head coach Mike Sullivan also spoke highly of O’Connor’s defensive game on multiple occasions. O’Connor was a fixture on the Penguins penalty kill and will only improve in the near future.

The 2023-24 season was a breakout year for O’Connor. He showed he could play in the NHL regularly and had a good rapport with Crosby. 2024-25 will surely be a year with more growth for O’Connor and a perfect time to further cement his star power.

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