The Pittsburgh Penguins young talent pipeline continues with the signing of center Jake Guentzel. Guentzel is an intriguing prospect who ranked #14 last summer in our yearly "Top 25 under 25" feature. From our friends at SBN College Hockey:
Guentzel was a third round draft pick of the Penguins in the 2013 NHL Draft. He led the Mavericks in scoring this season with a 19-27-46 scoring line, and finishes his career at Omaha with 119 career points.
Guentzel is ranked 27th overall on our list of the top 100 NHL prospects in the NCAA this year. While Guentzel lacks prototypical pro size for the NHL level, he is one of the smartest hockey players in the NCAA, which should be a huge asset at the NHL level. He tremendous at finding open space for himself and teammates, especially on the rush, which makes him a consistently dangerous offensive threat that is tough to defend.
Guentzel will finish the season on an amateur tryout offer with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before starting a contract with the Penguins next season.
The college ranks have been kind to the Pens this season with Bryan Rust (Notre Dame), Scott Wilson (UMass-Lowell), Conor Sheary (UMass-Amherst) have provided the Penguins a big boost. Guentzel was also college teammates with his now WB/S teammate Josh Archibald for a season.
Add all those young forwards (plus the exciting Daniel Sprong, who is tearing up the Q) to the best young goalie in the league (Matt Murray), potentially 3 defensemen under 25 next season (Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot) and it looks like the much maligned Penguins depth system is actually sporting the core-veterans pretty well at this point and should have Pittsburgh as a team well within the window to be a playoff team for many seasons to come.
We'll see how Guentzel adjusts, like Rust, Wilson and the rest of the youngsters his transition and development will likely take a season+ before he will be even considered for a chance to be NHL ready, but getting Guentzel to turn pro early is definitely a great thing for Pittsburgh.
Now, all eyes for signings turn to Teddy Blueger, Pittsburgh's 2nd round pick in 2012 who just finished his senior season and will either need to be signed or become a free agent. Pittsburgh would receive a 3rd round pick in compensation in 2017 if they can't sign Blueger.