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Pensburgh 2016 Top 25 Under 25: Honorable mentions and #25, #24

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Our countdown of the 25 best players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization begins at the back of the line with #25 - 21. Meet them, learn them and see if they ever become the next back of players for the team.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The dead of summer presents a good time to look at the top players in the organization. When the season is going on, it's all about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the big boys, but this series has provided an interesting look over the years at who could be making the next wave of supporting players to the Penguins stars.

As we mentioned yesterday, 15 of last year's top 25 spent at least some time on the NHL roster last season, so hopefully this exercise is also a reminder that while patience is required to develop prospects, the future can and will advance very quickly.

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Best of the Rest

Reid McNeill, D, 24 years old, Wilkes-Barre Scranton (AHL)

Previously: #23 (2015), #22 (2014), #21 (2013)

In his last shot at the T25U25, the Pens former 6th round pick from 2010 completes his slide down the rankings from #21 three years ago to out of it now. McNeill is a veteran of 4th professional seasons, all at the minor league level.

McNeill has had staying power in a large way, because, in a large way he's different from many other players in the organization (and in the sport). At 6'4 and 220 McNeill is the rare big, physical crease-clearing defenseman of yore.

From dps, our resident WB/S guru:

Nothing really stands out about McNeil except his physical edge, to be honest...He’s always been a rugged presence on the blue line, never afraid to throw the big hit when necessary, but not to the point where it costs his team in positioning. Career high in points last season with 11 assists, but [was stuck] in the midst of a glut of lower-pair defenders (Prow, Ruopp, Andersen, Parent).

Making the NHL will be a tall task, with the organization loading up on AHL-NHL level options like Lukas Bengtsson, Ethan Prouw, Stuart Percy, David Warsofsky, Tim Erixon and Steve Oleksy for next season. None (except Oleksy) are the same type of player as McNeill, but Oleksy has more NHL experience and was called up for depth a few times last year. Odds don't look good for McNeill to ever make an impact in Pittsburgh, or anywhere else, at the NHL level at this point of his career.

Blaine Byron, C/W, 21 years old, University of Maine (Hockey East)

Previously: 2015 (#24), 2014 (#25), 2013 (#25)

Already the veteran of now 4 T25U25 at just the age of 21, Byron (6th round pick in 2013) is now entering his senior season in Maine. He was the Black Bears leading scorer last season, though that only meant scoring 24 points (8g+16a) in 34 games, a bit down from his 27 point sophomore campaign.

It's difficult to get excited about a prospect like Byron, since it's hard to see what he projects to be. He's hung around the fringe of the Top 25, mainly because he's performed well in summer camps, team scouts tend to say flattering things (though, when are they not generally complimentary?) and he has produced decent numbers at the NCAA level.

Does he have the skill to fit in at the pro level? Is he well-rounded enough to translate his game into a two-way one to fit in on a lower-line? These are questions we're still years away from really knowing, and now with added depth and talent in the Pens organization Byron's at least temporarily out of the list this season.

Sean Maguire, G, 23 years old, Boston University(Hockey East)

Previously: 2015 (Not Ranked), 2014 (NR), 2013 (#20)

A strange career already for the Pens 4th round pick in 2012. He played 3 years at BU, missing one in 2014-15 as he took time off to recover from a major concussion. But after a fairly successful senior season with 25 games played and a .920 save %, the Penguins signed Maguire to a two-year entry level contract. It remains to be seen if he will be the AHL backup and/or get a chance to play some games at the ECHL level, but there's not a lot of expectations for Maguire in an organization that boasts Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry and now the 2016 high ranked goalie Filip Gustavsson.

"That year off really gave me an opportunity to view things from a different perspective," said Maguire. "I was able to work on things that I couldn’t mid-season, whether in Powell River or in Boston. I had time to work with my goalie coaches and doctors. I can look back on it as a positive."

- See more at: http://www.prpeak.com/sports/kings/former-powell-river-kings-goalie-sean-maguire-turns-pro-1.2229730#sthash.SEdn32Tb.dpuf

"That year off really gave me an opportunity to view things from a different perspective," said Maguire. "I was able to work on things that I couldn’t mid-season, whether in Powell River or in Boston. I had time to work with my goalie coaches and doctors. I can look back on it as a positive."

- See more at: http://www.prpeak.com/sports/kings/former-powell-river-kings-goalie-sean-maguire-turns-pro-1.2229730#sthash.SEdn32Tb.dpuf

"That year off really gave me an opportunity to view things from a different perspective," said Maguire. "I was able to work on things that I couldn’t mid-season, whether in Powell River or in Boston. I had time to work with my goalie coaches and doctors. I can look back on it as a positive."

- See more at: http://www.prpeak.com/sports/kings/former-powell-river-kings-goalie-sean-maguire-turns-pro-1.2229730#sthash.SEdn32Tb.dpuf

"That year off really gave me an opportunity to view things from a different perspective," said Maguire. "I was able to work on things that I couldn’t mid-season, whether in Powell River or in Boston. I had time to work with my goalie coaches and doctors. I can look back on it as a positive."

- See more at: http://www.prpeak.com/sports/kings/former-powell-river-kings-goalie-sean-maguire-turns-pro-1.2229730#sthash.SEdn32Tb.dpuf

"That year off really gave me an opportunity to view things from a different perspective," said Maguire. "I was able to work on things that I couldn’t mid-season, whether in Powell River or in Boston. I had time to work with my goalie coaches and doctors. I can look back on it as a positive."

- See more at: http://www.prpeak.com/sports/kings/former-powell-river-kings-goalie-sean-maguire-turns-pro-1.2229730#sthash.SEdn32Tb.dpuf

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And on to the real list, we'll start today with #25 and #24.

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#25 (#NR) Joe Masonius, D, 19 years old, University of Connecticut (Hockey East)

The first of 8 newcomers to the Top 25, defenseman Joe Masonius (6th round pick, 2016) makes the listing even over some players drafted ahead of him. How is that possible? Masonius had one of the best draft-seasons of anyone Pittsburgh selected this summer, putting up an impressive 21 points in 34 games, his freshman season at UConn. He's also got experience playing with the US National Development Team prior to college.

Scouting report: (From SBN blog Defending Big D)

Masonius saw a ton of ice time as a freshman defender for the U. of Connecticut and was by far and away their most dangerous weapon from the back end thanks to his strong skating, hard shot and crisp passing. Another former member of the prestigious USNTDP, he will get plenty of opportunity to further develop into a minute-munching impact player while at the NCAA level.

Masonius was in Team USA's U-20 tryout camp this week, but got cut yesterday. He'll be in college for probably at least 2, if not all 3 more years he's eligible before turning professional. Masonius is looking like a long-term prospect, but an interesting one to track in the coming years.

#24 (#NR) Niclas Almari, D, 18 years old, HMK (SM-Liiga, Finland)

The Penguins 5th round pick in 2016 makes the list at 24.

At the draft Patrik Allvin the Pens head European scout said, "Niclas is more of I would say a long-term prospect. Great poise. Really sees the ice well. He moves well. Obviously, he needs to get stronger. I think he's in a good spot. I could see him staying over three years."

Listed in some places at just 167 pounds, Almari will definitely need to add muscle. However, his skill-set (skating, puck moving, good at thinking the game) seems primed perfectly as a new-age NHL defenseman.

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The list rolls on tomorrow with a few more, as we count down the top young players in the Penguins organization.