2016-17 Top 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects

2016-17 Top 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects

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2016-17 Top 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects

The Pittsburgh Penguins have arguably the worst prospect pool in the NHL. The NHL roster has no 21-year-old and under players making an impact and there is little help coming down the pipe. Not only have the Pens traded away first round picks, they have been quick to trade away top prospects to stock their current roster in pursuit of Stanley Cups.

It has been a steep price to pay but hard to argue with the results as they are the defending Cup Champions and should be considered strong contenders once again. While the immediate future is promising with the core intact, the not too distant future looks a little less promising.

Top 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects

1. Jake Guentzel, Center
Age: 22
Ht/Wt: 5-11/180
2015-16: Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC)
Drafted: 77th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Pittsburgh

The first pro season for Guentzel was highly anticipated after his 46 point junior season in the NCAA. When his season ended Guentzel played the final 11 regular season games for Wilkes-Barre with six points. He then exploded for five goals and 14 points in ten playoff games in the AHL serving notice that his offensive production would translate to the pro game no problem.

This season he has split time between the AHL and NHL and has posted offence in both leagues. He made a splash in his NHL debut earlier this season scoring two goals in his first game, with his first goal on his first shot of his first shift. Guentzel was the first player to pull that feat off since Mario Lemieux. The Pens are trying to be patient with Guentzel and returned him to the AHL, but injuries have opened a window for his return and his AHL days may be over.

2. Daniel Sprong, Right Wing
Age: 19
Ht/Wt: 6-0/180
2015-16: Charlottetown (QMJHL)
Drafted: 46th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Pittsburgh

Recently named the CHL player of the week, Sprong is having a strong season playing full time in the QMJHL. After trying to force Sprong into the NHL level failed after his draft year, it appears as though the Pens have avoided overwhelming a good prospect, and have wisely allowed him to develop at the junior level.

Sprong suffered a shoulder injury as a black ace during last spring’s playoff run and was out of action until December but has returned strong posting 32 goals and 58 points in 30 games with a plus -32 rating. The Penguins will be counting on Sprong and Guentzel to make an offensive impact on the big club in the near future and both have top six potential.

3. Derrick Pouliot, Defence
Age: 23
Ht/Wt: 6-0/208
2015-16: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Drafted: Eighth overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by Pittsburgh

Now in his third pro season the first round pick from the 2012 draft is in jeopardy of never breaking the Penguins roster and may end up being exposed in the Vegas expansion draft. A fresh start in a new organization may be just what the offensive defenceman needs.

Pouliot has 65 career NHL games to his credit and has only managed to produce two goals and 14 points in that span. His AHL production is more impressive but what has been the concern with him is his defensive play and speed at which he processes the game at the NHL level. He continues to show promise and potential and if the Penguins don’t expose Matt Murray in the expansion draft (and they won’t) Pouliot may be the most attractive option.

4. Tristan Jarry, Goalie
Age: 21
Ht/Wt: 6-2/194
2015-16: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Drafted: 44th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Pittsburgh

The Memorial Cup Champion of 2014 continues to develop for the Penguins at the AHL level. Their undisputed top goalie prospect was named to the AHL All-Star game in his second pro season and has seen his game develop significantly since his rookie season.

Jarry has played himself into a position to be a strong candidate to back-up for the Penguins next season should the Penguins trade one of Murray or Fleury.

5. Lukas Bengtsson, Defence
Age: 23
Ht/Wt: 5-10/172
2015-16: Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2016

Pittsburgh added a solid prospect via free agency by signing the offensive defenceman from the SHL. Bengtsson is an undersized elite skating offensive defenceman who carries the puck well and creates transition offence. His North American debut has been a struggle as he battled Lyme disease early on, but appears to have recovered.

His offence hasn’t translated to date as he has one goal and six points in 16 games in the AHL but his defensive game has been the priority and he has adjusted well. Assuming the offence comes around once he gets his feet wet, the Penguins could have a depth defenceman capable of stepping into a top four role in the not too distant future.

6. Filip Gustavsson, Goalie
Age: 18
Ht/Wt: 6-2/184
2015-16: Lulea (SuperElite)
Drafted: 55th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Pittsburgh

Their top draft pick from the 2016 draft. The Penguins have a potential future starting goalie in the big Gustavsson. After playing his draft year in the SuperElite league in Sweden he graduated to the SHL in his post draft year and impressed in 15 games playing pro against men posting a 2.70 GAA and a .912 Sv%.

Gustavsson is expected to develop for a few seasons in the SHL and is a long term project. He is a big butterfly style goalie with quick reflexes and a strong glove hand. He has the potential to be a future starting goalie, but is several years away from fulfilling that potential.

7. Oskar Sundqvist, Center
Age: 22
Ht/Wt: 6-3/209
2015-16: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2102 draft by Pittsburgh

Now in his second season in the AHL, Sundqvist is showing the offence he produced in the SHL as he has broken out with 39 points in 54 games. Sundqvist managed to play in 18 NHL games last season posting four points but has only played in four this year with no points.

Sundqvist is a two-way center that can be difficult to play against but with the added offence this season he could slot into the roster as a third line center rather than a fourth. Sundqvist is close to making the jump to the NHL full time.

8. Zach Aston-Reese, Center/RW
Age: 22
Ht/Wt: 6-0/205
2015-16: Northeastern (NCAA)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2017

The Penguins won the 2017 NCAA free agent sweepstakes landing the big fish in Aston-Reese, and added a much needed depth prospect. After four years of college hockey, Aston-Reese had his offensive stats steadily improve where he finished his career with 63 points in 38 games as a senior.

Aston-Reese is a versatile player that can play multiple positions on a number of lines in offensive and defensive opportunities. His NHL upside is likely not higher than a bottom six and he could be an excellent AHL player but he is found money. He could see some AHL time before the season ends.

9. Dominik Simon, Center/LW
Age: 22
Ht/Wt: 5-11/176
2015-16: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Drafted: 137th overall in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by Pittsburgh

The Czech born forward made his North American debut in his post draft year. Simon was drafted as a 21-year-old. It was an impressive debut as he posted 48 points in 68 AHL games and made his NHL debut playing in three games for the Penguins where he recording his first career NHL point, an assist.

In his second AHL season he started slow and suffered a sophomore slump to start the year and was well behind his points per game pace from his rookie season. In the second half he has regained the offensive production and now has 38 points in 59 games. Slightly undersized, he has quick soft hands and his game will rely on his ability to provide offence.

10. Kasper Bjorkqvist, Right Wing
Age: 19
Ht/Wt: 6-1/198
2015-16: Blues U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
Drafted: 61st overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Pittsburgh

Bjorkqvist is in his rookie season in the NCAA with Providence College and has had slow adjustment with only three goals and six points in 29 games this season. Bjorkqvist also played in six games for his native Finland at the World Junior tournament where he had a goal and two points in a very disappointing showing for the defending Gold Medalists who found themselves playing in a relegation match.

The Penguins will be in no rush to sign Bjorkqvist and will be happy to allow him to develop for several more years at the NCAA level where he can add more mass and strength to his 6-1 frame. Offence is not necessarily his game either as he plays a two-way game and projects to play a bottom six role.