2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins Top 10 Prospects

2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins Top 10 Prospects

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Pittsburgh Penguins

A look at the Pittsburgh Penguins top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.

With the NHL core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and M-A Fleury the Penguins have been in a win now mentality for the last decade. In an attempt to constantly be surrounding their core players with complementary players, the Penguins have been quick to trade off prospects and high draft choices.

The most recent example came on July first, when GM Jim Rutherford exhausted what little prospects and picks the team has left sending Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington and a first round pick to Toronto for Phil Kessel. There are still some rays of hope coming down the pipe in Pittsburgh, but the distant future looks bleak. Of course another Stanley Cup banner would take some of that sting away.

1. Matt Murray: Goalie – 6’4” / 178 lbs
Drafted: 83rd overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by Pittsburgh

Murray had a huge breakout performance in his rookie season in the AHL, leading the league in goals-against average (1.58), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (12) in 40 games for an absolutely incredible season. Murray won the rookie of the year and goalie of the year awards. The Penguins lost backup Thomas Greiss and have decided to replace him internally. Murray has proven capable and has nothing left to prove in the AHL, but may need to continue seeing regular starts. It will be a training camp duel between Murray and Jeff Zatkoff.

Scouting Report:

Murray is an athletic goalie who has good lateral movements. He uses his size to cut down shooting angles and deflect rebounds into the corners. He sees the puck very well through screens and has the agility to make second and third saves. To become a potentially elite goalie, he could work to become a better puck handler. Murray definitely has the potential to be a starting goalie in the NHL. – Devin Slawson, THW

2. Daniel Sprong: Right Wing – 6’0” / 180 lbs
Drafted: 46th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Pittsburgh

Sprong burst onto the prospect scene in his rookie season in the Q, putting up 30 goals and point per game for Charlottetown. In his draft year he raised the bar scoring 88 points in 68 games, and had seven goals in ten playoff games. His game has begun to draw comparisons to Daniel Alfredsson during the rookie camp this past summer. Sprong has top six potential and is the most offensively gifted prospect in their system. Another year in junior is in his future.

Scouting Report:

A prolific scoring winger who possesses an elite-level skillset: has dynamic skating ability, is a creative passer, and has incredible puckhandling ability. While he is offensively dominant, he is also defensively responsible. A very hard working player who strives to improve all aspects of his game. Absolutely electric – Elite Prospects

3. Sergei Plotnikov: Left Wing – 6’2” / 205 lbs
Acquired:  Signed as a free agent in 2015

The Penguins have been searching for a Russian winger to ride shotgun with Evgeni Malkin and believe they have found their man in Plotnikov. Coming from the KHL where he scored 15 goals and 36 points in 56 games, he has size, plays with grit and can finish in close. Skating may be a problem and he may need some time to adjust to the NHL, but playing on a line with Malkin could translate to immediate success. Plotnikov also played for Russia in the past two World Championships.

Scouting Report:

A hard working winger with good game vision who plays an impressive physical game. He also has a good shot. Needs to improve his skating. – Anton Vasyatin, EP

4. Brian Dumoulin: Defence – 6’4” / 207 lbs
Drafted: 51st overall in the second round of the 2009 draft by the Carolina Hurricanes
Acquired: Trade with Carolina in 2012

After a few cups of coffee in the NHL, Dumoulin now at 24 years old, has a career total of 14 NHL games of experience to his credit. The former Boston College star also has the better part of two AHL seasons of development under his belt. He played a regular shift in all five of the Pens playoff games, averaging 14:06 minutes of ice time and did not look out of place.  Pittsburgh lost Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff in the off season and acquired no replacement, giving Dumoulin an opportunity to win a roster spot.

Scouting Report:

He got a taste of NHL action as well last season, appearing in eight regular season games and all five playoff contests. He showed strong puck moving ability and provides an effective first pass out of the zone. He also possesses good mobility and size, although does not necessarily use that size to its full potential in a physical sense. Overall, Dumoulin is a player that does not particularly excel in one area of the game, but instead just does everything pretty well. – Hockey Prospectus

5. Oskar Sundqvist: Centre – 6’3” / 209 lbs
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by Pittsburgh

The 19 year old has spent the past two seasons playing pro against older men in Sweden. He will make the transition to North America this year and projects as a bottom six, depth forward that can play physically and is responsible defensively. With Eric Fehr out until November there could be a chance for Sundqvist to start the season in the NHL.

Scouting Report:

Sundqvist has decent overall speed, but could stand to work on his first step quickness and his acceleration. His agility could also be a bit better. Its not that these areas are bad, its just that they won’t really stand out at the NHL level. One area that is above average is his strength and balance on his skates. This allows him to win battles on the boards or drive to the net…Sundqvist has good vision and passing skills. His balance and puck protection allow him to extend plays in the cycle game and wait for a teammate to get open. Sundqivst controls the puck well down below the circles and uses his long reach and his big body to shield the puck from defenders…Sundqvist is a well developped two-way player and can be used to kill penalties. His long reach and excellent positioning help him to cut down passing lanes in the defensive zone. He is very good at reading the play and anticipating plays. Sundqvist may need to get better in the faceoff circle to be a true shutdown centre, though this is something that can be improved with hard work. – Last Word on Sports

6. Tristan Jarry: Goalie – 6’2” / 194 lbs
Drafted: 44th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Pittsburgh

After a very successful junior career with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL including two Championships and a Memorial Cup title in 2013-14, Jarry will begin his pro career in Wilkes-Barre this season. It will be impossible to duplicate the success Matt Murray had, but Jarry has the pedigree to be a starting goalie. He has size and quickness and would benefit from a heavy work load. If he proves ready for that in training camp it could help push Murray to the NHL, allowing Jarry the full time job in the AHL.

Scouting Report:

rarely appears off-balance or in desperation scramble mode ..staying centered positionally allows him to remain patient on breakaways and odd-man rushes, while making stretching and reaching saves with ease ..made significant gains in his economy of movement .. quick, fluid re-setting to feet after dropping to butterfly .. impressive vertical speed .. patient, calmly stands ground facing heavy net push .. adopts paddle-down .. very deep in his crease .. looks completely unfazed by what’s going on around him .. seals down rapidly into a compact, comfortable butterfly. – McKeens Hockey

7. Scott Wilson: Left Wing – 5’11” / 183 lbs
Drafted: 209th overall in the seventh round of the 2011 draft by Pittsburgh

Drafted third from last overall, the 23 year old has continued to develop. Despite his smaller frame, made his NHL debut last year playing 4:21 minutes in one game, and was also used sparingly in three playoff games. After three years in college he made the move to pro last year and was impressive scoring 19 goals and 41 points in 55 games. Wilson will try to win a roster spot on the fourth line as a versatile, gritty player. With a limited offensive ceiling, he likely starts the year in the AHL and is an injury call up during the season.

Scouting Report:

Wilson is another forward who seems best suited for a bottom six role. He is a good skater, who digs hard in the corners and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He is a good skater who gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring and hitting defencemen; and causing turnovers in the offensive zone. When he gets the chance, he has a hard and accurate wrist show. Wilson works hard on the cycle and controls the puck down low. Wilson brings that strong work ethic to his own end of the ice. He does the same digging in the corners in his own zone and supports the defence down low. He is willing to block shots, and can even work on the penalty kill. Wilson’s responsible game makes him a coaching favorite. – Last Word on Sports

8. Adam Clendening: Defence – 6’0” / 190 lbs
Drafted: 36th overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks
Acquired: Trade with Vancouver Canucks in 2015

Clendening spent time on four teams last year between Chicago and Vancouver’s organizations in the NHL and the AHL. He played a total of 21 NHL games, scored his first NHL goal and recorded four points. He was traded from Chicago to Vancouver for Gustav Forsling, and then was part of the Nick Bonino and Brandon Sutter trade coming to Pittsburgh. Clendening will challenge for a roster spot but could be an injury call up.

Scouting Report:

A smooth skating two-way defenceman that can read the game like a forward. Possesses slick hands, a good stick, and a sharp shot that jumps off of his stick. All-in-all, a productive two-way defenceman that has a high offensive ceiling, and is responsible defensively. – Elite Prospects

9. Bryan Rust: Right Wing – 5’11” / 192 lbs
Drafted:  80th overall in the third round of the 2010 draft by Pittsburgh

Speed is the key asset for Rust. He’s an undersized depth forward. Rust had his first NHL look playing in 14 games, scored a goal and added an assist. He is a reliable penalty killer with good hockey smarts and a motor that never quits. Not much potential beyond the checking line.

Scouting Report:

One of the top skaters in the Penguins prospect pool, Bryan Rust plays a high motor game that allows him to be effective in many different roles. Speed is the foundation of his game, but Rust has excellent hockey sense and a shooter’s mentality. He is not an overly creative forward though, and any offense he gets will be the result of hard work and getting lots of pucks on net. Rust rarely takes a penalty or makes a mistake on the ice and should develop into a solid NHL penalty killer as a result. – Hockeys Future

10. Jake Guentzel: Left Wing – 5’10” / 167 lbs
Drafted: 77th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Pittsburgh

Won the USHL rookie of the year with a 73 point season in 60 games before going the college route with Nebraska-Omaha, where he has produced a point per game pace with 73 points in 73 career games. Guentzel is a long term project, as he needs to add significant strength and bulk, but he has some potential.

Scouting Report:

Guentzel makes up for a lack of size by being one of the smartest players in college hockey. He’s always thinking one or two steps ahead of the opposition and is always in position to make a play. He’s an excellent passer that excels in creating scoring opportunities off of 3-on-2 rushes. His high hockey IQ allows him to be effective on the defensive end as well. – SB Nation

Recent Roster Graduations: Derrick Pouliot, Beau Bennett, and Olli Maatta

Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.

Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling

Matt Murray

Daniel Sprong

Sergei Plotnikov

Brian Dumoulin

Oskar Sundqvist

Tristan Jarry

Scott Wilson

Adam Clendening

Bryan Rust

Jake Guentzel