With all the success that the Pittsburgh Penguins had this past decade, picking an all-decade team was certainly not easy. There have been a lot of great forwards that have worn a Penguins jersey over the last 10 years. Some guys are superstars and other guys are key role players, but all of them helped win two Stanley Cups this decade.
In determining who qualified for the all-decade team, players had to play at least 100 games or be on the roster for two or more seasons. This excludes someone like Jarome Iginla, who only played 28 games for the Penguins. Success prior to 2010 does not factor into the team. With that being said, let’s look at the 12 forwards who made the Penguins’ 2010s All-Decade Team.
First Line: Jake Guentzel- Sidney Crosby- Pascal Dupuis
Since being called up during the 2016-17 season, Jake Guentzel has been everything and more that the Penguins could want. He quickly found incredible chemistry with Sidney Crosby and the two were dynamite together. Guentzel has also stayed healthy, not missing a game since the start of the 2017-18 season.
His regular-season performances have been just what you would want from a first-line winger. Averaging 0.80 points per game (P/G) and 0.40 goals per game, Guentzel has really made the most of his ice time. He was relegated to the second power-play unit until the 2019-20 season, so to put up these kind of numbers speaks volumes about his play.
Perhaps the best part about Guentzel is his ability to score goals in the postseason. As a member of the 2016-17 Stanley Cup team, he had 13 goals in 25 games, with five being game-winning goals. After signing a contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh until at least 2024, there is every reason to believe he will get better over the next few years.
What more can be said that hasn’t already been said about Crosby? He is a generational talent but when he was drafted with the first-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, there is no way the Penguins could have known just how good he was going to become. At age 33, he is still one of the best players in the game and will go down as one of the greatest players of all time.
Averaging 1.30 P/G, he has never finished a season with fewer points than games played this decade. With 20 awards won and five All-Star game selections, Crosby has played at a high level on a consistent basis. The highlight of the decade was leading the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups where he had 14 goals and 32 assists. Winning faceoffs, setting up teammates or magically scoring a goal, he has captained the Penguins for years and will continue to do so.
Before Guentzel arrived on the scene, Crosby’s partner-in-crime was Pascal Dupuis. The 2011-12 season was his best for the Penguins where he had 25 goals and 34 assists. It did not matter what was asked of him, he always found a way to score. The partnership he had with Crosby was one of the best in the NHL.
It is kind of crazy to think that a 36-year-old had his career cut short due to injuries, but that is what happened to Dupuis. He began suffering from blood clots in November 2014. He battled his way back multiple times but ultimately was forced to retire on Dec. 8, 2015. He was still a member of the Penguins and was able to lift the Stanley Cup in 2016. Dupuis continues to be an active member of the organization and is still beloved by fans to this day.
Second Line: Chris Kunitz- Evgeni Malkin- James Neal
Scoring one of the most important goals of the decade, Chris Kunitz was a crucial player throughout the 2010s. Playing in over 500 games since the start of 2010, he averaged 0.67 P/G and at least 15 minutes of ice time every season he was in Pittsburgh.
The highlight of his career in Pittsburgh was his Game 7-winning goal against the Ottawa Senators in double overtime to send the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final. He hopped over the boards and received a pass from Crosby and knuckled the puck into the back of the net to send Pittsburgh into hysteria. Also serving as an alternate captain, Kunitz was a leader in the dressing room as well as on the ice.
Evgeni Malkin has been overshadowed by fans and pundits because he plays behind Crosby. On just about any other team, he would be a first-line center. This is a luxury that the Penguins have and has been instrumental to their success over the last decade. Averaging over a point per game every season, he creates a match-up problem for teams that put their best unit against Crosby and then have to deal with Malkin on the second line.
He is a monster on the power play, either on the point or against the boards, as shown by his 84 power-play goals since the 2010-11 season. Recently, he has been winning over 50% of his faceoffs, something he struggled with for much of his career. Serving as one of the alternate captains for the entire decade, he has been and will continue to be a leader for the Penguins.
James Neal was acquired from the Dallas Stars on Feb. 21, 2011, to help with the Penguins’ playoff run that season. While his time in Pittsburgh got off to a rocky start, his first full season with the team saw him score 40 goals and tally 41 assists.
Playing alongside Malkin, Neal was a proven goalscorer, notching four hat tricks in his time with the Penguins. His best postseason was the 2013 playoffs where he had 10 points in 13 games, including a hat trick against the Senators. He would ultimately play 237 games for the Penguins before being traded to the Nashville Predators. Neal helped shoulder the load on the top guys during his time as a Penguin and helped them make deep playoffs runs during his four seasons in Pittsburgh.
Third Line: Carl Hagelin- Nick Bonino- Phil Kessel
Perhaps the most recognizable line of the decade, the HBK Line gets reunited in the All-Decade team. When the Penguins acquired Carl Hagelin from the Anaheim Ducks, he was not brought in to light up the scoreboard. They loved his speed and his penalty-killing ability along with his physical play.
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was a defining moment for Hagelin and the Penguins. Putting him on a line with Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel to create what would become known as the HBK Line, they tore through the playoffs as teams could not find a way to match-up against them. Hagelin had 6 goals and 10 assists en route to winning the Stanley Cup. He would go on to play 243 games for the Penguins and win two championships, becoming a fan favorite in the process.
When the Penguins acquired Bonino in 2015, they finally got the third-line center they have been searching for since Jordan Staal was traded. In his two years in Pittsburgh, he helped anchor the third line and the penalty kill, winning the Stanley Cup in both seasons.
Bonino would play 188 games, tallying 91 points in the process. Like Hagelin, his play in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was key to their winning ways. He is still beloved by fans every time he comes back to Pittsburgh as a member of the opposing team. Without Bonino, the Penguins don’t win back-to-back championships.
In a blockbuster deal, Kessel was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015. A true sniper, he immediately slotted into the Penguins’ top power play as well as playing on the right side of Malkin. Struggling at the end of the 2015-16 regular season, he was the final piece of the HBK line. With 10 goals and 12 assists in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the team in points that postseason.
The 2017-18 season was his best season in Pittsburgh as he scored 92 points, a career high. He was lethal on the power play and his 359 points was third most on the team during his four years as a Penguin. When he returned as a member of the Arizona Coyotes, he was given a standing ovation by the fans. Kessel will always be loved by the fans for his contributions to two championships.
Fourth Line: Bryan Rust- Jordan Staal- Patric Hornqvist
A third-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Bryan Rust has been a Penguin his entire career. A key role player who can play on either wing and with any center, he has carved out a nice role for himself. While injuries have often come at inopportune times, he has always responded well. He often has 5-10 game stretches where he seems impossible to contain.
His play in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning was the most significant stretch of his career so far. He set up Crosby for a crucial OT winner in Game 2, scored the fourth goal in Game 6 when the Lightning were pushing for an equalizer and scored both goals in a 2-1 victory in Game 7. He has 162 points in 331 games and is on his way to a nice NHL career in Pittsburgh.
As the final piece to the three-headed monster at the center position, Jordan Staal was dominant as the third-line center for the Penguins. He was the best third-line center in the NHL during his time in Pittsburgh and was key to the Penguins’ playoff runs season after season. He finished third in 2010 for the Selke Award, an award that goes to the best two-way forward.
With 92 points during his time with Pittsburgh this decade, Staal was one of the top scorers in the NHL from a third-line role. He was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after he rejected a long-term deal from the Penguins in 2012. His impact was felt just as much after he left when it took four seasons for the Penguins to find someone to replace him in the lineup.
Rounding out the forwards, Patric Hornqvist makes the All-Decade team. Acquired in a trade from the Predators that saw Neal go the other way, he immediately joined the top line with Crosby and Kunitz. This trade came full circle for Hornqvist as Crosby was the first-overall pick in the 2005 Draft and he was the last pick. He found success on the top power-play unit, with his net-front presence being the highlight of his game. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Predators to clinch the Penguins’ second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Whether it is getting into the opponent’s head to draw a penalty, screening the goalie or anything in between, Hornqvist is an important piece to the current makeup of the Penguins. He has the ability to play on any line and can be a difference maker in a variety of ways. With 252 points in 425 games, including the fastest natural hat trick in team history on Dec. 4, 2018, against the Colorado Avalanche, he has been one of the more productive wingers in recent seasons for the Penguins.
Current All-Decade Team
Jake Guentzel- Sidney Crosby- Pascal Dupuis
Chris Kunitz- Evgeni Malkin- James Neal
Carl Hagelin- Nick Bonino- Phil Kessel
Bryan Rust- Jordan Staal- Patric Hornqvist
Editors note: Be on the lookout for the All-Decade Defense on Dec. 13
Josh Karadeema is a professional sports videographer who currently works for the Tennessee Titans filming practices and games for coaches and player review. Josh also is a contributing writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he has watched since 2003, covering a variety of topics. Josh is a native of Jacksonville, FL and currently resides in Nashville, TN.