The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the hunt for this summer’s premiere college free agent, Jimmy Vesey, but they’re also trying to sign another one as well in Thomas DiPauli.
DiPauli was a 2012 4th round draft pick of the Washington Capitals who just finished up his collegiate career at the University of Notre Dame. DiPauli chose not to sign with the Caps, apparently because he was seeking an easier path to the NHL.
Despite reports early in the afternoon that the DiPauli’s signing with Pittsburgh was imminent, the agent Peter Fish (coincidentally the same agent for Vesey) has said this isn’t the case.
“Certainly I’ve had some discussions [with Pittsburgh about DiPauli],” Fish said on Thursday. “We feel very good about with them."
What does DiPauli bring to the table?
DiPauli's a two-way center, high motor, pretty close to NHL ready from what I can tell. He'd be among the Pens top 3 or 4 forward prospects.— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) August 18, 2016
A lot of people have compared him to Bryan Rust, who was a former teammate at Notre Dame. Both seem to have similar styles as far as being two-way players, not overly skilled but with great drive.
It would be interesting if DiPauli ditches the Caps organization for the Pens, if only because the road map to the NHL doesn’t look all that easier in Pittsburgh. Oskar Sundqvist is a top center prospect who is younger than DiPauli, much bigger and probably offers more PK capability. The Pens also have vaunted new pro prospects in Jake Guentzel and Teddy Blueger who are skilled former NCAA players with better pedigrees than DiPauli, while also being younger. Add in Dominik Simon and his 25 AHL goals last season as a rookie, plus phenom winger Daniel Sprong (even if he is out for most 2016-17 with rehab from shoulder surgery), and I would have to disagree with Bombulie that DiPauli would be, at best, Pittsburgh’s 5th best forward prospect. Which doesn’t even speak to ranking behind young NHL established players like Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson and Conor Sheary who are under team control for years to come.
Still, adding young talent (for free) is adding young talent. DiPauli seems to have a bottom-6 NHL ceiling but he’s also a pretty capable young player. If Pittsburgh can somehow convince him to join the organization, the organization would be stronger for it. We’ll see what his decision is, but for now it’s good that Pittsburgh is exploring all avenues to keep trying and add young talent to their ranks.
UPDATE: As of Friday morning, it’s a done deal, DiPauli has chosen to join the Penguins organization and has signed an entry level contract with Pittsburgh.