Penguins preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

After an early ouster from the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, Sidney Crosby & Co. are out for vengeance. Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

An uncharacteristically early playoff exit ended the 2017-18 season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Will they get back on track this season?

How they finished in 2017-18: 47-29-6 (100 points), finished 10th in NHL, second in Metropolitan Division.

Understandably tired after back-to-back Stanley Cup runs, the Penguins didn't have the juice to make it three in a row. Goaltending, unexpectedly, was a bit shaky.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 102.5

Best-case scenario: Sidney, Geno and Phil decide it's time to win another Cup, and the rest of the NHL is just going to have to deal with that.

Worst-case scenario: It becomes apparent Sidney Crosby will never win a scoring title again -- not as long as Connor McDavid is around. The Penguins make the playoffs, but don't make it far; after all, you can't simply be buoyed by an unreal power play.

Forwards overview: It's always about the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin one-two punch in Pittsburgh, but once again Crosby will be looking for a new linemate after Conor Sheary was shipped to Buffalo. The team added veteran center depth, while it feels like a make-it-or-break-it season for Derick Brassard. NHL rank: third

Defense overview: What Kris Letang are we getting in 2018-19? The success of this blue line might be contingent on how the No. 1 rebounds. The rest of the unit is steady, if unflashy. NHL rank: 11th

Goalie overview: It was a difficult season for Matt Murray, who battled injuries and coped with the loss of his father, whom he was very close with. Murray's career-low .907 save percentage (and .905 save percentage in the Washington playoff series) weren't up to his par. NHL rank: 14th

Special teams: The best thing about last season's Penguins was their unworldly power play, which struck on a league-high 26.15 percent of opportunities. (Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Phil Kessel all had double-digit power-play goal totals). The penalty kill was a bit shabbier, hovering around the league average at 80 percent.

Pipeline overview: Another season without a first-round draft pick keeps the Penguins running in place near the bottom a bit. I really liked their second round, landing Calen Addison and Filip Hallander, two players who could provide great value down the line. Meanwhile, the system is still led by Daniel Sprong, who is still waiting on a chance to fully prove himself at the NHL level. He seems about as close as he has ever been to being ready. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: We know Phil Kessel will play with Evgeni Malkin, but it gets messy from there. Jake Guentzel could line up with either Malkin or Sidney Crosby, but since he'll get one of the two, let's not split hairs and just call him fantasy-relevant. Patric Hornqvist, if healthy, should occupy another wing spot in the top six. That leaves Carl Hagelin, Derick Brassard (switched to the wing?) and maybe Daniel Sprong to fight for a scoring-line job. As always, whoever wins will be worth having on your team. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? Unless the Penguins totally flounder, coach Mike Sullivan's job should be fairly safe. Sullivan's contract runs through the 2019-20 season.

Bold prediction: Any lingering Kessel trade rumors are quickly quashed after the 30-year-old winger goes on an early scoring tear. He finishes the season with a career-high 40 goals.