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From Pittsburgh Penguins Media

Time for Tony Angels: Solving the Puzzle of the Penguins Fourth Line

Anthony Angello netted his second career goal in Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the hapless Buffalo Sabres. It was a welcomed sight to see a Penguins fourth line goal. It added on to a trend we have seen emerging as the Penguins pile up wins: depth scoring. Coach Sullivan spoke to that post game with praiseworthy comments about the fourth line’s play, complimenting their physicality and offensive zone time in addition to the goal by Angello. With the return of Zach Aston-Reese and the eventual returns of Jared McCann and Jason Zucker, there are three effective lines Coach Sullivan can deploy.

And then, there is the obsidian void that is the fourth line. Coach Sullivan’s comments made it seem like confidence is growing in the current Penguins fourth line and bench players. But will they build off of a successful performance? What sort of options do management and Coach Sully even have? I think with some tinkering, the fourth line can become an effective and maybe even, productive, line for the Penguins. To start, let’s look at the players currently on the roster/taxi squad. 

Mark Jankowski

There is a world where he is a serviceable NHL players and for $700,000, I understand why the Penguins signed him. But just as he was described when the Calgary Flames selected him, he remains a project. He has the size and can skate well enough, but the hands seem tight, no doubt tightened by the pressure of underperforming. I think if he is the 13th forward, I’m content, but that is about the only roster spot he should occupy on a playoff team. 

Anthony Angello

As the title might have tipped, I have a strong affinity towards Anthony Angello, affectionately known as Tony Angels to my cousin and I. I don’t think he’s a future top 6 player by any means. I do think the way he uses his size combined with a tendency to go to the net are both attributes you look for in a grinding fourth line. He’s always willing to hit and throw his body around. While he certainly lacks the pure speed of Sam Lafferty or even Colton Sceviour, Angello’s grit and snarl is more appropriate for the bottom six. Plus, that goal on Thursday was sweet. Long live Tony Angels. 

Sam Lafferty

He can skate. That’s about it. That egregious turnover against Philadelphia cemented his return to the bench. He’s the Penguin’s version of Mendoza from Mighty Ducks 2 before he learned how to stop. I love to watch him skate but that’s not enough to keep anyone in the lineup.

The Rest of the Bunch

Colton Sceviour/Drew O’Connor/Josh Currie are all players that shouldn’t be on the ice. Sceviour is a fourth line quality player, but his fit in Pittsburgh has been abysmal.

Evan Rodrigues- The wild card

From Joe Sargent, NHLI, via Getty Images

Presuming that McCann and Zucker will both be back and healthy, I think Rodrigues is perfectly suited to be a bottom six player. He has burst through the neutral zone and shows above average vision, but I don’t see any sort of scoring consistency that warrants him playing next to Geno or Sid. That being said, his offensive awareness and skating combined with his responsibility in the defensive zone are enough to convince me that he can add to the fourth line, rather than be a liability on the ice. 

If you’re following along, that leaves an open spot on my hypothetical fourth line with Angello and Evan Rodrigues on the wings. I think a trade is on the horizon. I’m not sure what GM Hextall has in store for his first move, will he go big or try to just supplement a team that he thinks can already compete? I think adding a bottom six center should be a priority either way. We’ll see what GM Hextall has in store over the next couple weeks. Check back for part 2 where I give some potential trade targets to improve the fourth line.