A few weeks ago our illustrious leader Hooks Orpik and myself began contemplating a series on the Top 25 Pittsburgh Penguins prospects under the age of 25. The idea is one borrowed from numerous other sites across the boards. From what I understand, the concept was pioneered by our neighbors at the Edmonton Oilers fanblog Copper & Blue. Since then it has spread to most of the other team's blogs, so we wanted to join the trend.
However, we hit a snag in trying to compile the list, since with just two of us working on it we found it difficult to reach an agreement on the rankings of individual players, or even the idea of which players qualify and which should be ignored. So that is where you come in. Taking a page from our neighbors at Copper and Blue, I figured including the rest of the staff and getting fan involvement would allow us to compile a list based on the votes of numerous sources. So please take a moment to consider the criteria below and provide us with a list of how you would rank the Penguins prospects.
What should the qualifiers be?
One issue was trying to decide exactly what the cutoff would be. "Under 25" seems pretty self explanatory, although even that has some leeway if you consider different sources (i.e. 25 and Under vs Under 25). The other issue was whether or not to include players that fit the age requirements, but strictly speaking aren't really prospects anymore. I looked at it multiple ways, including the NHL's Rookie eligibility requirements (A player who has not yet reached the age of 26 by the start of the NHL year on September 15th who also has not appeared in 25 or more NHL games total or 8 games or more in each of the previous 2 seasons) and the Prospect Criteria used at Hockey's Future (a player who is at or younger than the season of their 24th birthday who has also played in fewer than 65 NHL games).
I also went with the assumption that age would be based on the NHL's usual cutoff date of September 15th (i.e. both James Neal and Harry Zolnierczyk turn 26 before the start of the season, so they most certainly do not qualify), but also considered the possibility that the AHL's December 31st cutoff date could be used. Interestingly, if you go to the Penguins website, you can see the complete list of players separated into two groups, "Penguins Roster" and "In the System." All of the players (except Hartzell for some reason) that meet the NHL's rookie eligibility requirements are currently listed under "In the System," while those that are either older or more experienced and thus no longer eligible to be rookies, including those that we recently acquired on 2-way deals to play in WBS this fall, are listed on the "Penguins Roster."
How should they be ranked?
This is perhaps the issue that we struggled with the most. Everybody is going to have different criteria they use when ranking players, but philosophically it boils down to two conflicting viewpoints. One way would be to rank your players based on their pure potential, where the players that are most likely to make an impact on the NHL roster are further up the list, even if they are years away from getting an opportunity. Another way of looking at it is to rank the players by what they have accomplished thus far in their careers, so a player currently playing in the NHL will invariably be more important to the organization right now, while a blue chip prospect that hasn't accomplished much will be further down. However, doing it this way would give the blue chip prospect the opportunity to climb the chart during the next update, as the players with more potential will continue to improve and player a bigger rule in the future while low potential players that have already reached their peak will have plateaued.
How do other people do it?
The answer is not entirely clear, since I have limited knowledge of the criteria the other blogs use in their Top 25 polls. However, we can see a few ideas coming off of other sites. As mentioned, the Penguins website distinguished between prospects and players that have graduated full time to the NHL, while Hockey's Future also has pretty clear cut rules (though their current update still has players that are no longer prospects based on their own listed criteria).
Our friends over at Copper & Blue, as well as Lighthouse Hockey, from what I can surmise put more emphasis on the age requirements rather than whether or not the players is a "prospect." For example the Edmonton Oilers Copper & Blue have Taylor Hall listed at #1 while the New York Islanders Lighthouse Hockey have Jonathan Tavares at #1. Of course I completely agree with their choices, but its certainly different from what we think of here in Pittsburgh when we are looking at our prospects.
And of course the original post that I read in preparation for this series was from the Toronto Maple Leafs Pension Plan Puppets, which included a section on what the player could do in order to move up the list. That led me to believe that the ranking was based more on what they have accomplished thus far in their careers rather than what their future potential impact is. But as I said, you can click on nearly any of the other teams' blogs and see a different way of working their Top 25 list. So rather than debating, I figured we could leave it up to the community at large to help compile a master list.
Who are our Prospects?
Players that are both Under 25 AND rookies -
Goaltenders - Tristan Jarry, Matt Murray, Sean Maguire, Alexander Pechurskiy.
Defensemen - Dane Birks, Ryan Segalla, Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Clark Seymour, Harrison Ruopp, Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, and Nick D'Agostino.
Forwards - Blaine Byron, Jake Guentzel, Theodor Blueger, Troy Josephs, Oskar Sundqvist, Matia Marcantuoni, Anton Zlobin, Dominik Uher, Josh Archibald, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Adam Payerl, and Jayson Megna.
Under 25 but more than 65 NHL games - Brandon Sutter.
Under 25 but no longer Rookies - Beau Bennett, Simon Despres, and Robert Bortuzzo.
Season of 24th Birthday was last year - Eric Hartzell, Bobby Farnham, and Paul Thompson (see below).
25 and Under but still rookies - Zach Sill and Brian Gibbons, plus Paul Thompson turns 25 after the Sept. 15th NHL cutoff date but before the December 31st AHL cutoff date.
25 and Under but more than 65 NHL games - Dustin Jeffrey.