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Prospect Profile #15 - Jake Guentzel

Diving back into our Top 25 Under 25 we have 2013 3rd round pick Jake Guentzel.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Who is this guy?

Jake Guentzel is a 5'10" 157lbs Center from Woodbury, Minnesota who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 3rd round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

What are they saying about him?

The majority of scouts seem to have been most enthralled with his intelligence, vision, and hockey IQ. He also have good speed and skill, but the mental side of the game that is much harder to teach he is already miles ahead of his peers. One of the scouts said of him:

"Not the biggest, or the fastest, or the strongest, he succeeded in all three zones by being the smartest player out there; his hockey sense is high, high end. Possessing tremendous vision and anticipation, he also showed a nice two-way game too; breaking up plays on the backcheck, supporting his D down low and along the walls, stealing pucks. He is a decent skater, but uses his burst of speed and quickness to catch defenders flat footed; he is so adept at using deception- whether it be skating or in his puck skills- to his advantage. I cannot emphasize enough just how good his hockey sense is."

His teammates and coach have glowing recommendations of his ability as well:

"Only a few amount of players see the ice like that," said Montgomery. "He thinks, but he makes quick decisions out there. They’re usually the right ones. He makes things happen."

"He’s smart enough to know when he needs to attack and he’s smart enough to know when he needs to create opportunities for his teammates," said Musketeers Coach Brett Larson. "It’s instinct. You can’t teach that. All those top end guys have that. He reads the game and anticipates."

Of course the biggest thing holding him back seems to be his size. He is a bit short for an NHL forward, and he is extremely slight. Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Dan Sexton is not worried, however, claiming that he expects him to grow quite a bit while he is at college. And we have already seen that happen, as his Draft profile had him listed at 5'9" 153lbs, so between being drafted and weighing in at Prospect Development Camp in Pittsburgh he already grew an inch and added a couple pounds. Assuming he manages to grow into an NHL calibre frame, Sexton says "We see this kid as certainly a middle six forward. He can generate some offense and play both sides of the puck."

Where has he been?

Guentzel came up through the ranks in the Minnesota High School hockey system, including the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. Then last year he decided to head to a Tier I Juinor A program playing for the USHL Sioux City Musketeers. He finished the season as the top scorer on his team and was #13 in Goals and #6 in Points for the entire USHL. That performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors, a spot on the All Rookie Team, and a spot on the Second Team All-Star. And that was all while playing on a team that finished 12th of 16 and didn't even qualify for the playoffs. He then committed to join the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he has started this Fall playing with fellow Pens prospect Josh Archibald.

When can we expect to see him?

Gunetzel is just starting his Freshman year of college and at 18 is quite young and quite small. Expect him to finish out his 4 years of college before making the jump to the pros in the AHL, with his ultimate future being decided from there. If he pans out though, he could be a quality Check line Center in the NHL in 5 years or so.

Why is he #15?

Guentzel received 1 vote for 11th, 1 vote for 12th, 1 vote for 14th, 2 votes for 15th, 1 vote for 18th, 2 votes for 21st, and 1 omitted him from the Top 25.

How can he climb the list?

The biggest thing holding him back is his size, so in order to climb the list he needs to continue to mature and grow, as well as bulking up to add some muscle mass so that he can continue to win puck battles against the older players he will be facing in the NCAA and professionally. And while he has the mental side of the game down, he will need to continue to work on improving his speed and skating ability and his general skill with the puck. He is pretty good as it is, but if he wants to stand out against the pros he needs to get even better. Another suggestion would be to expand his versatility by transitioning to the wing. He could probably eventually be a 3rd line C in Pittsburgh, but the Pens are pretty stacked down the middle, so if he has any hope of cracking the Top 6 he will need to be able to excel on the wing as well.