Tom Kostopoulos has been a part of seven opening night rosters as a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Number eight might be the best.
“I’ve seen some good lineups in my time here,” said Kostopoulos, who begins his eighth season with the Penguins on Friday. “The depth and talent, this one might be the best.”
The 2015-16 Penguins features eight forwards who hit double-digits in goals last season, three defenseman who posted 20 or more points in a season at least once in their AHL careers, and Matt Murray in net, the league’s top goaltender last year. Seven of the 25 players on the roster were drafted in the third round or higher, including two – Derrick Pouliot and Tyler Biggs, who were 1st round picks.
“We have the makings to be a very good team,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “The rest is up to us to make sure that happens.”
After a quick training camp and preseason, the Penguins open the season Friday against the Providence Bruins. Sullivan has juggled this week of practice between teaching his system and game strategy against the Bruins, who are now Atlantic Division rivals thanks to the AHL realignment.
For one Penguins player, the game is a bit of a homecoming. Defenseman David Warsofsky signed with the Penguins this summer after spending the last four seasons with Providence.
“I knew it was going to happen because they’re in the same division, but maybe not this quickly,” Warsofsky said. “I enjoyed Providence and I’m excited about playing there.”
After Friday’s season opener, the Penguins travel to Bridgeport on Saturday for another divisional matchup against the Sound Tigers. For a team that has experienced significant turnover in the coaching staff and the roster, starting the season with a weekend on the road isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Sullivan.
“We’ll see what we’re made of,” he said. “On the road they’ll have an opportunity to get on the bus, have a team meal and get to know each other. Some of the best times to bond as a group is when you travel. It will be a challenge and we’re going into some tough buildings, but it will be an opportunity for our guys to get to know each other better.”
While the home fans won’t get to see the Penguins in action at the Mohegan Sun Arena until the Oct. 17 opener against Lehigh Valley, Sullivan offered a sneak peek of what to expect.
“A highly entertaining team that’s fun to watch. A group of guys that’s easy to root for,” he said. “What impresses me most about this group so far is I can tell just by their body language they’re totally vested in what’s going on here.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVenesky