Will Pittsburgh regret losing another prospect to Los Angeles?

With 7 rounds a year, NHL teams can pile up draft prospects.  Having only 50 NHL contracts to give out, teams have to make decisions on which of their draftee's that they want to keep, and which to let slide along.  For the most part, players drafted in the latter rounds that don't get contracts usually find work outside of professional hockey.  Every once in a while, this is not the case.

A couple years ago the Penguins elected to let one of their draftees go without retaining his rights after four years of college.  The player caught on in Los Angeles, played three seasons in the AHL and the NHL (29 games, 6 goals 4 assists) before signing with New York this past summer.  Now he's on their top line and has 15 goals and 26 points in 35 games.

That player, of course, was Matt Moulson, a former 9th round choice of the Pens in 2003.

Now, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, it's happened again:

Sources tell TSN [Jake] Muzzin has agreed to terms on a three-year entry level contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

The deal will not be signed or formalized until after Jan. 1 in order for Muzzin to take advantage of favorable terms in the CBA regarding future arbitration rights, but interested teams calling Muzzin are now being told he has made his decision and it's the Kings.

Muzzin was a first round OHL draft pick who missed his entire first year of junior because of back surgery. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007 but was not signed by them or subsequently drafted by anyoe else, so he became an unrestricted free agent last summer.

More on this situation, including who the Penguins chose to keep instead of Jake Muzzin..

Here's what Muzzin's done so far this season in the OHL:

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
Jake Muzzin 34 9 32 41 11 52 5 1 4

He's leading all defensemen in the league in points and is tops on his team in assists, points and plus/minus.  For sure Muzzin's have a great year.

But he ought to be.  Muzzin (born in February 1989) is about to turn 21 and is in his fourth season in the OHL, where a lot of the players are anywhere from 17-21 years old.  He's a man among boys, so his dominance as an over-are is understandable.

In part because Penguins only kept a combined six draftees from 2005 and 2006, so they were able to offer contracts to six of the seven draftees from 2007.  The only one they ended up turning loose was Muzzin, a 5th round pick with a history of back injuries. 

Here's two defensemen from that draft year that got professional contracts.

Robert Bortuzzo GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
Wilkes-Barre (AHL) 29 1 3 4 -1 51 0 0 0

Bortuzzo has made a big impact in his first season as a professional.  He was a big hit in Pittsburgh's training camp, where he showed a lot of polished play and impressed many observers.  Bortuzzo's shown a lot of toughness, getting 5 fighting majors so far, including some scaps against some of the toughest guys in the AHL (like Jon Mirasty and Trevor Gillies)

 

Alex Grant GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
Wilkes-Barre (AHL)  4 1 0 1 3 5 0 0 0
Wheeling;(ECHL)  22 7 9 16 8 22 2 0 2

Grant's been a victim of Wilkes-Barre's depth and has mainly been in the ECHL so far this season.  It seems like he's had a reasonably good rookie season, he needs more development and consistency, but so do most 21 year old defensemen.

 

So will Pittsburgh regret losing Muzzin?  They can't say they'd rather have him than Bortuzzo, who's been great.  Grant's a step below developmentally, but still doing well and is actually made the jump to the professional ranks.

Though the Penguins lost out of Moulson, I doubt they're losing any sleep over it.  Sure he could have had added some cheap production, but it's tough for young wingers to crack the Pittsburgh lineup in a scoring role.  In the interests of assest management, it'll be interesting to watch Muzzin's development to see if he continues to follow a path similiar to Moulson.

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