I remember some Penguins fans at last year's trading deadline were afraid that trading away picks and prospects was going to hurt our farm system in the future.
Looking back, it looks rather silly to say something like that with how the WBS Penguins have fared so far this season.
After the jump, I'll analyze some of the prospects I think have the highest ceiling or most potential to develop into an NHL caliber player in the near future (1-3 years).Keven Veilleux
Notables: 6-5, 219 lbs, Power Forward
Veilleux has been one of the best forwards on the team in the second half of the season. In 66 games this season, he has posted 12 goals and 24 assists, a +17 and 122 PIM. Veilleux has the potential to be an elite power forward in the AHL next season and could even get a look by Pittsburgh at some point next season. Not too often you get a guy this big with a decent set of hands. He's a beast along the walls and is really hard to knock off the puck when he's on his game. To show how strong he has come on in the 2nd half of the season, 24 (6G,18A) of his 36 points have come in his last 30 games. There aren't many things keeping him from being an NHL forward at this point but two things have kept him out of the big leagues. He has had problems staying healthy in his two seasons with WBS. He only played nine games last season before getting injured and missing basically the entire season. This season he has battled through some injuries and managed to get in 66 games. Another thing is his discipline and last night's game was a prime example. He took a two handed swing at Hershey's Steve Pinizzotto and jumped on him while he was down on the ice, granting him a two game suspension which will cause him to miss the rest of the regular season. I predicted a 50-55 point season out of Veilleux and he fell short of that. But the last 30 games has shown that he is capable of being a scorer as well as a fighter.
Notables: 6-2, 189 lbs, Play-making winger
Petersen is turning heads in just his first season of pro hockey. He started the season with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers but quickly showed he didn't belong. He was called up the WBS Penguins after tearing up the ECHL with 57 points (24G,33A) in 40 games with the Nailers. You might recognize the name because of his recent accomplishment of posting five assists in one game, a WBS record, last week. Mainly on the fourth line, Petersen has posted 11 points (2G,9A) in 21 games with the AHL Penguins. Petersen is still probably two more years away from cracking an NHL lineup but should be a solid top six forward for the WBS Penguins next season. He's quick, has good vision and can pass and shoot with the best of them in the AHL already. He's my dark horse candidate for the leading scorer in this season's Calder Cup Playoffs.
Notables: 5-11, 185, Goal Scoring Center
Ben Street also began the season in Wheeling and formed a nice duo with Petersen, tearing up the ECHL ranks. He was recently named the ECHL's rookie of the year despite playing only the first 38 games of the season. After posting 51 points (24G,27A) he was called up to the WBS Penguins and made an almost immediate impact at the AHL level, unlike Petersen who got off to a somewhat slow start. Street has racked up 21 points (12G,9A) in his 34 games with WBS and is the best offensive minded center the AHL Penguins have going into the postseason. Street isn't the biggest guy at just 5-11 but he uses his speed and stick handling to blow by, around or right through opposing defenders. Street and Petersen could be the main attraction next season for WBS if guys like Brett Sterling and Ryan Craig aren't retained.
Notables: 5-10, 175, Two-way forward
I think Lerg is one of the most underrated players on the WBS roster. He plays well in both zones and has been put on the point of the top power play unit and has succeeded there too. What is most striking about Lerg is his hockey smarts. He's rarely out of position and plays the Penguins system very well. Another good thing Lerg brings is discipline. With only 19 PIM in 64 games this season it's safe to say he plays within the rules and stays out of the box. He isn't too bad offensively either, posting 30 points (14G,16A) while playing on a line with Chris Collins and Joe Vitale.
Notables: 6-3, 212 lbs, Offensive Defensman
Sneep is slowly maturing into a nice defenseman over the course of his first season of pro hockey. You can really tell he's gaining confidence at the AHL level and has become better in the defensive zone as well. He's got a lot of prospects ahead of him on the depth chart (Despres, Bortuzzo, Strait) but he has the potential to be a very solid defenseman for the WBS Penguins next season. He's spent most of the season as the 6th/7th defenseman and has really learned a lot in his first year. I don't see Sneep cracking Pittsburgh's roster anytime soon but having an offensive defenseman in the minor league is never a bad thing, especially when you consider he has more offensive upside then most of the D-men ahead of him. He's posted 16 points (4G,12A) in 59 games this season.