Who is this guy?
Jayson Megna is a 6'1" 195lbs Center from Northbrook, Illinois who was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins as an undrafted free agent in 2012. There were reportedly half a dozen teams interested in him and he had narrowed his choice down to 3 teams: the Pens, the Boston Bruins, and the Winnipeg Jets. He attended Prospect Development Camp in Pittsburgh and wound up signing an Entry Level deal.
What are they saying about him?
One of the biggest aspects mentioned of Megna is his speed and his aggressive style. He is the gritty type of player the Pens love to have. As Player Development Coach Bill Guerin says "He's going to be a speed guy. I wouldn't put him as a big numbers guy but definitely an effective player. With his speed, he'll give people fits. Megna is definitely capable of being an energy guy on one of the bottom two lines of an NHL team." He was a late bloomer, starting his USHL career at 19 and entering college as a 21 year old Freshman, so he has benefited from playing against younger and smaller players. That allowed him to put up impressive scoring numbers, but the transition to the professional game is not an easy one.
Guerin recounts his experience, "He had an up-and-down year last year because of some injuries, but by the end he was definitely figuring it out. You don't just figure it out overnight. Most guys don't. And it's definitely a process. He... made big strides last year." After a strong Development Camp this year, the Pens were well pleased with his progression, with WBS Head Coach John Hynes saying "Jayson Megna is one of those guys who can compete for the opportunity to play in Pittsburgh this season." His upside is perhaps not more than a 4th line grinder and pest, but like Joe Vitale, Zach Sill, or Craig Adams he can provide some grit and make a nuisance of himself to buy time for the top players to rest.
Where has he been?
Megna started out as a 19 year old rookie with the USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. He wasn't the best player as a rookie, but he contributed to his team's success. Then his second season he has a breakout year, finishing 1st in Goals and 2nd in Points on his team during both the regular season and playoffs, as well as #5 in Goals and #9 in Points for the entire USHL during the regular season, for which he was named a 1st Team All-Star, and #4 in Goals and #11 in Points during the playoffs. The following year he joined the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he played with Pens prospect Josh Archibald, his brother Jaycob Megna, and former Development Camp invitee Andrej Sustr. He finished the year 3rd on the team in both Goals and Points, as well as being 1st in Plus/Minus rating, and was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team.
After a successful Prospect Development Camp in Pittsburgh earned him an Entry Level contract he decided to leave school after just one season, turning pro with the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He struggled during the season, with points coming few and far between, finishing 11th in Goals, 14th in Points, and dead last in Plus/Minus rating. On a team that finished the season with the lowest Goals Against in the entire AHL, it really takes some special effort to finish the year with a -12. However, he continued to improve, and by the playoffs while he wasn't one of the Top 6 he was able to quietly contribute to the team's success.
When can we expect to see him?
Because Megna was older he only signed a 2-year Entry Level deal, so this season is a contract year for him. However, according to the coaching staff we could very well see Megna getting some exposure in the NHL this year, so how he performs and how he has come along developmentally in WBS will determine his future in the organization. Although next year, with only the Top 6 and Adams currently under contract, means there could be some openings for Bottom 6 AHL guys to move up, especially if he signs an affordable near minimum contract.
Why is he #5?
Megna received 1 vote for 1st, 1 vote for 5th, 4 votes for 6th, 1 vote for 15th, 1 vote for 17th, and 1 vote for 18th.
How can he climb the list?
He needs a big year, especially if it involves getting some time in the NHL. There are some higher potential guys nipping at his heels, but like he has been his entire career he is beating them out based on being older than them. If he wants to be more than a gritty 4th line Energy guy he needs to improves his play in his own zone, as well as showing that he can contribute offensively, even if it isn't at the same level he did in his younger years. He probably would have been better off developmentally if he had stayed in College instead of dropping out after 1 year, but then he wouldn't have the advantage of being older and farther along than the more talented prospects.