Pittsburgh Penguins fans rightly wondering where Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang will play with the man advantage during the 2023-24 season got their answer on Monday — head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed that both defensemen would see time on PP1 to start the year.
“The power play is very important to Erik and Kris,” Sullivan told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. “So we'll start with both of them on the top unit. And so we'll see how it goes. We've got a lot of options.”
It certainly makes sense to have the two offensive juggernauts manning the first powerplay, especially with Jake Guentzel not expected to be healthy to start the year.
Daily Faceoff currently projects Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell rounding out the top-five with the extra man, but it's likely that Rakell's spot will eventually be taken by Guentzel once he's healthy.
The team has a few other options for that spot as well, including Bryan Rust, who had a down year in 2022-23, as well as new acquisition and Stanley Cup champion Reilly Smith.
Both Karlsson and Letang have been powerplay quarterbacks for their entire careers, so it makes a lot of sense that the two will get a chance to do it together to start the season.
Things will get interesting once Guentzel is healthy, and the powerplay progress at that time will probably decide whether it is a D-man or the extra forward that gets bumped off the unit.
When Karlsson was first traded to Pennsylvania, Letang confirmed that he endorsed the team's pursuit of the reigning Norris Trophy winner and would happily concede his powerplay quarterback spot, a place he has spent the better part of his 17-year career.
The Pens ranked 14th in the NHL in powerplay proficiency in 2022-23 at 21.7 percent. Karlsson scored 27 of his incredible 101 points with the man advantage in San Jose last year, increasing his PP totals to 273 points through 14 NHL campaigns. Letang added 21 PP points of his own last year.
The Penguins will unleash both veteran blueliners when they welcome Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks to PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 10.