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July 2015 Pittsburgh Penguins Top 25 under 25 Rankings: 19-15

A look at the #19-15th best players in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization that are 25 years old or younger.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you've missed our earlier editions of this summer's countdown you can catch up here:

Also, I should give a shoutout to Hockeys Future Penguins writer extraordinaire Ian Altenbaugh and the ubiquitous (and awesome) Eric Majeski for their help and input to give me an informed consensus for these rankings.

Now, onto today's part of the countdown! Last summer's rankings are in parenthesis.

#19 (#24) Jeff Taylor, Defenseman, 21 years old, Union College (rising Junior)

Taylor, a 7th round pick in 2014, is a personal favorite of mine. Something about this kid screams a young, poor man's Alex Goligoski to me, as a young, puck moving defenseman. His arrow has been pointing up for a while, highlighted by a huge statistical jump from his freshman year (3g+13a) to his sophomore campaign in 2014-15 (4g+27a). The Trib's Jonathan Bombulie had his eye caught by Taylor too at last month's development camp in Pittsburgh, saying Taylor " looks smaller than the 5-11, 181 he’s listed at, but there’s an urgency to his skating like he’s always trying to make something happen." Ideally Taylor has 1 more great season at Union and turns pro in the fall of 2016, but if he needs another year to physically grow stronger, that's probably a good idea too. He's years out from coming close to the NHL, but he's a prospect worth getting on the radar.

#18 (#10) Josh Archibald, Right Wing, 22 years old, Wilkes-Barre (AHL)

Archibald, a 6th round pick in 2011, had an undistinguished rookie campaign as a professional, splitting his season between the ECHL in Wheeling (scoring an impressive 7g+4a in just 9 games) but struggling to find playing time or traction with 45 games in the AHL (tallying 5g+8a). Archibald didn't skate at this summer's developmental camp with a minor hamstring injury that should be resolved well before training camp in what should be an important year

#17 (#17) Jean-Sebastien Dea, Center, 21 years old, Wilkes-Barre (AHL)

The undrafted Dea had a bumpy but mostly productive first season in the pros, split between Wilkes-Barre (10g+11a in 41 games) and Wheeling of the ECHL (4g+3a in 14 games) when he they didn't have the space to play him in the AHL. Dea has great offensive ability and hands, which Bombulie also touted:

Dea showed an ability to finish on the power play with the Baby Pens last season. That takes talent. Five-on-five, on the other hand, he was lost at times. That’s something that can be learned. Give him time to improve how he plays within a team concept and he might be on to something.

We'll see just how much Dea is "on to" in his second year as a professional. He's not without talent, but it will be interesting to see how much more traction he can get in Year 2 rather than Year 1.

#16 (NR) Tim Erixon, Defenseman, 24 years old

Tim Erixon in Jan 2015, 2 teams ago. (USA Today)

Erixon is a huge wild-card for the Penguins this season. The youngster has 93 NHL games under his belt, and if he plays for the Penguins it will be his 5th NHL team. Which of course means that 4 other teams have given up on him, for one reason or another. Can Erixon beat out guys like Brian Dumoulin and #15 on our list for not only limited NHL roster space, let alone an even more precious spot in the lineup?

We'll leave his Hockey News player profile here

Assets: Has a good frame, very good instincts for the game and solid bloodlines. Displays all-around upside and the ability to log a ton of minutes. Is relatively low-maintenance.
Flaws: Needs to gain strength to better handle National Hockey League forwards. Also must play with more of an edge to his game in order to maximize his full potential.
Career Potential: Puck-moving defenseman with upside.

#15 (NR) Adam Clendening, defenseman, 22 years old

Clendening made his NHL debut last season, playing 17 games for the Vancouver Canucks. He was also demoted and played a major role on the first pair in AHL Utica's run up to the Calder Cup finals. Included in the Brandon Sutter / Nick Bonino trade, Clendening could go from relative throw-in to major piece of the puzzle for Pittsburgh. As mentioned just above, the Penguins will have plenty of competition for the #6 and #7 spots on the roster next season, and with a strong training camp, Clendening can throw his hat right in the ring. Here's his Hockey News as well:
Assets: An excellent puck mover, he has very good offensive instincts and can quarterback a power play. Also plays well in his own end of the ice.
Flaws: Doesn't have ideal size for an NHL blueliner, so he must get stronger and prove he can defend against big-league power forwards regularly.
Career Potential: Solid offensive defenseman with some upside.