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Pensburgh 2016 Top 25 Under 25: #23 - 20

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Our countdown of the top young players in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization continues with #23-20, including 3 recent 2016 draft picks.

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images

We're back to the countdown of the top 25 players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Catch up with the earlier parts of the series if you need

Now, on with the show.

#23 (#NR) Ryan Jones, D, 20 years old, University of Nebraska-Omaha [2016-17] (NCHC)

The Penguins 4th round pick in 2016, Jones is off to the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2016-17. "Ryan played in the USHL, he’s been through the draft a couple of times," said Pens scout Randy Sexton. "[He's a] little bit of a late bloomer, 6-foot-3, he’s extremely mobile like [3rd round pick Connor] Hall and plays with a real edge. He’s going to be going to the University of Nebraska-Omaha next year."

Pittsburgh didn't have much in their prospect pipeline among defenseman prior to a couple of undrafted FA signings and the 2016 draft, so the addition of Jones provides a missing element. It remains to be seen how much the Crown Point, Indiana product will develop in the coming years and he's definitely looking like at least a 3-4 year project as he gets ready for his freshman collegiate season.

#22 (#NR) Connor Hall, D, 18 years old, Kitchener (OHL)

Connor Hall was the Pens 2016 3rd round pick (and result of the Beau Bennett trade). Sexton said of Hall, "a throwback, old-style NHL defenseman. He’s got good size, he skates very well. His puck skills are solid and he plays with a lot of aggression. Very, very physically aggressive defenseman".

SB Nation College Hockey offered this scouting report:

What I Like:

-Physicality

Hall is a strong kid and likes to use his size and strength to play a nasty, physical game. He punishes forwards, especially along the boards. He makes life difficult for the opposition and can quiet the opposition by making them afraid to go into tough areas of the ice. Sometimes he can cross the line--he served an 11-game suspension for a check to the head to start the season. He's willing to stand up for teammates and drop his gloves if necessary though.

Hall excels as a shutdown defender that is especially strong one-on-one. He maintains good gaps, and has a strong, active stick. He's got an excellent poke check and is good at getting his stick into passing lanes to disrupt plays.

What I Don't Like:

-Okay footwork

Hall moves decently for a player his size, but overall, his skating isn't a big strength. His lateral movement and footwork is especially questionable, and may cause him to struggle against faster, more skilled competition.

-Little offensive upside

Hall is and projects to be a defense-first defenseman. He's unlikely to cover up any mistakes he makes on the defensive end with strong plays on the offensive end.

The Penguins obviously liked Hall's skating a lot better than the SBN scout...Or at least project him to be able and improve in that area. Everyone raves about the guy's physicality, which makes him fairly unique in the Penguins system. There aren't too many 18 year olds who are 6'2, 195 pounds and are so physical. That promise, plus the Pens liking him enough to pull the trigger in the 3rd round and his experience with Team Canada's U-18 team, has us rank the Cambridge, Ontario native in this year's T25U25.

#21 (#18) Josh Archibald RW, 23 years old, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)

Previous Years: 2015 (#18), 2014 (#11), 2013 (#17)

Archibald becomes the first player with NHL experience, as Archibald made his NHL debut on March 5th against Calgary, his only game in the big show to date. Archibald only played 8 shifts and 5:01 in the game, but it was the culmination of a long journey for the 2011 6th round pick of the Penguins.

Archibald's future remains mostly an unknown. He's about last in line for guys drafted in 2010-12 that remain in the organization (namely Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson and Oskar Sundqvist), not to mention others like undrafted Conor Sheary and newly signed higher skill guys like Jake Guentzel and Teddy Blueger that Archibald will now be competing with as well. 2016-17 will be the final year of his entry level contract, it will be interesting if the Pens give him another contract or allow him to become a free agent.

This season probably is a huge make or break for Archibald. It seems like he's not all that much of an NHL option right now, but injuries happen. Archibald needs to use the assets he has (namely his speed and transition into a lower line player) to try and carve out a niche. Ideally he would probably increase his AHL point ratio too, even in a defensive role scoring only 9 goals and 9 assists in 68 games doesn't indicate a lot of confidence that he's got enough overall skill to be a full-time NHL'er.

#20 (#NR) Kaspar Bjorkqvist, C/RW, 19 years old, [2016-17] Providence College (Hockey East)

The Penguins (second) 2nd round pick of 2016, 61st overall was a surprise pick. Bjorkqvist was rated lower on most boards than where Pittsburgh chose him, and the team even said they were leaning towards loading up the defense, so drafting this forward really shows how much they like him.

From SBN blog All about the Jersey

Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst had this to say about Bjorkqvist when he had him being selected in the 6th round of his mock draft:

"Finland likely doesn’t win gold at the WJC without an under-appreciated bottom six and penalty kill that the overage Bjorkqvist contributed to mightily. He plays a heavy, inside game thanks to a pro build (6’1, 200) and acute understanding of play development. His eye-popping stats in Finland’s junior circuit (28 goals and 66 points in 45 games) have more to do with his size/strength advantage than anything else, as most of his points come via hard work and taking advantage of an opponent’s weakness. Bjorqvist may seem like a plugger, but he thinks things through shift after shift, and he takes excellent routes to the puck. Both his shot and skating are slightly above average, but he’s shown the ability to shift gears towards the cage and dance around unassuming opponents."

For what Bjorkqvist lacks in offensive talent, he definitely seems to make up for it with a strong defensive game and great work ethic. It's not surprising to read that his strong point totals in the Finnish junior league has a lot to do with his size. Still, it seems like he has the makings as a bottom 6 guy that can contribute on the PK.

And, lest we think Bjorqvist is all #grit and no skill, here's a really nice play he made for Finland against Canada last week in overtime at something called the World Junior Summer Showcase. He rushes the puck up the right-wing, throws over a beautiful back-hand pass to setup the goal. That was an impressive play and hopefully a sign of things to come.

If nothing else, Bjorqvist is a big body who's said to be a well-rounded player without the puck. Even if his ceiling isn't all that high, it seems like he has a floor to at least have a chance to be a solid depth player. If he can do that at the NHL level, it will have been a good pick from the back of the 2nd round.

***

The list will resume later on this week, so far we've got:

Rank Name
25 Joe Masonius
24 Niclas Almari
23 Ryan Jones
22 Connor Hall
21 Josh Archibald
20 Kaspar Bjornqvist
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1