#1 Welcome to Pittsburgh (organization), Ethan Prow!
As @FriedgeHNIC suggested last night, college UFA D Ethan Prow of St. Cloud State is going to PIT. Two-yr entry level deal kicks in next yr.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 29, 2016
Gotta find talent wherever you can, especially for a team like Pittsburgh that has traded away several draft picks in recent years. Most undrafted signings turn out to be Paul Thompson's or Eric Hartzell's and have no impact in the NHL, but you never know when an Artemi Panarin might pop up. It's worth the risk, which is basically nothing.
#2: Here's a little about Prow from the Hobey Baker people:
One of the nation's top Division I blue liners, Prow serves as a team captain for the St. Cloud State Huskies...at midway point of 2015-16 season, Prow had four goals, three power play goals , 19 assists and 23 points for the Huskies...has helped SCSU maintain a top 10 national ranking for most of the 2015-16 season with the Huskies ranked fifth in the nation as of Jan. 17
Prow finished his senior season with 38 points (8g+30a) in 37 games. He's also a right-handed shot, something always in demand for NHL organizations. And, as the Penguins pointed out Prow " was the NCHC Player of the Year, Defenseman of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year, in addition to earning a berth on the All-NCHC First-Team All-Star squad.". We'll see how his career goes, but if nothing else, nice to add a collegiate team captain to the fold.
#3: And talk of adding free agents isn't over:
PIT, NSH, CGY amongst at least half dozen teams interested in UFA Daniel Pribyl, a 23-yr-old, 6-3 skilled F who plays for Sparta Praha.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 28, 2016
Pribyl scored 45 points (16g+29a) in 45 games in the Czech league this year. He was drafted by Montreal in 2011, but elected to remain in Europe, so he's been on the radar of the NHL for some time. He could be more Sergei Plotnikov than Panarin, but it would be better to find out in a Penguins jersey than as a Flame or Predator.
Overall, it's great to see Pittsburgh being very active in trying to bring in talent from outside the organization.
#4: Last note on the free agents, the Pens are lucky they were able to sign 2012 2nd round pick Teddy Blueger last week and that he didn't pull a Jimmy Vesey. Vesey, a top college player, has elected not to sign with the team that drafted him in Nashville, and instead will be an unrestricted free agent in August and can choose to sign with any team. This left Nashville GM David Poile miffed which is understandable but probably doesn't have Vesey doubting or regretting his decision not to be a Predator.
The NHL should probably think about closing this loophole. It's surprising they allow an unestablished player so much leverage to not sign with the team that drafted him.
#5: Hidden stat- in the past two years combined Matt Cullen scored 17 goals. He's at 13 (and counting) so far this year, in his age-39 season. Jaromir Jagr deservedly gets all the spotlight as the NHL's elder statesman and for being so far beyond the normal career, but let's not lose sight of what a great season at an advanced age that Cullen's having.
#6: It's a story line better suited for the summer, but the consistency of Carl Hagelin will be something interesting to consider. For now, of course, it's worth just enjoying the ride. Hagelin's 21 points in 30 games as a Penguin are an 82-game season pace of 57 points. That's eyebrow raising since the 27-year old Hagelin's career season-high is 38 points.
Can Hagelin stay productive in a full-time second line role with Pittsburgh? Or will his progression regress down to earlier in his career? I would probably bet the under on 57 points next year, but in an aggressive system with skill players that he's clicking with (namely Phil Kessel), I would bet an over on 38 for a full season next year.
#7: If your mind isn't right for a first round series with the New York Rangers, you got 2+ weeks. According to Sports Club Stats, Pittsburgh vs. NYR has a 64.5% probability right now. Pittsburgh's next most likely playoff opponent at 16.9% at the Florida Panthers.
#8: Speaking of, there's a real chance the first round could be Washington/Philadelphia and Pittsburgh/NYR with the winners facing each other in Round 2. That has to be just a dream scenario for the NHL to have such bitter rivals clashing in the divisional playoff setup. It's gonna be great, and probably raise a lot of blood pressure among the fan bases.
#9: Better starts will be needed in the playoffs, check out the Penguins first 40 minutes and their ranks in the league:
|Period||Goals For||Goals Against|
|2nd||92 (1st)||59 (4th)|
The Penguins are below average in goals and giving up goals in the first, but in the 2nd they've turned the tables completely. The second best team in the league in goals (Dallas) only has 82 goals. Pittsburgh is really, really good in the second period, but it would be better if they stopped digging early holes -- especially with the note in #7 about likely having to play the Rangers in the first round.
10: Which, naturally, trickles into the 3rd period where the Pens are 34-0-0 when taking a lead after two periods and rolling on home. The team is looking great for the final 40 minutes, but need some attention to detail and quicker starts not to continually putting themselves behind the 8-ball.