August days mean a desert for hockey, so it’s a nice time to take a look at the young players in the organization. Every summer we spotlight and rank the top 25 players in the organization that are under the age of 25.
For starters, let’s look back at the 2016 list and the season that those players had in 2016-17. Young players helped fuel the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup championship, with 7 players on our list suiting up for the Cup clinching game and 13 in total playing at least a regular season game in Pittsburgh during the season.
However, for the first time since we started this series, summer 2017 is going to be a huge transition year for this list. Many mainstays (Dumoulin, Sheary, Rust, Wilson and Kuhnhackl) have all aged out of consideration for future lists. None of us are getting any younger, but these departures will mean that our 2017 Pensburgh T25U25 list is bound to be weaker than the 2016 version. The Pens goal is to compete for championships, but the overall strength of their young players should probably be kept in mind as they make personnel moves.
Anyways, here we go!
|25||Joe Masonius||20||2016 draft (6th round)||NCAA||34gp 2g +11a, 47 PIMs||Somewhat of a sophomore slump statistically, but remained top defenseman point scorer for Uconn, remains long-term project|
|24||Niclas Almari||19||2016 draft (5th round)||SM-liiga||24gp 3g+2a, 8 PIMs||Split time between the 2 highest levels of play in Finland, and seemed to be fairly impressive as a heady defenseman|
|23||Ryan Jones||21||2016 draft (4th round)||NCAA||35gp, 1g+5a, 52 PIMs||Completed freshman year at Nebraska-Omaha, another one of the physical defensemen team has been stocking up on in the draft|
|22||Connor Hall||19||2016 draft (3th round)||OHL||17gp 1g+2a, 35 PIMs||6'4 defenseman had season cut short by shoulder surgery but was with WB/S on an ATO, so he's gotten some practice time with pros. Developmentally has a pivotal season coming up for 2017-18 in OHL|
|21||Josh Archibald||24||2011 draft (6th round)||NHL/AHL||61gp, 16g+13a, 54 PIM (AHL)||Feisty winger got 4 NHL playoff games and name on the Stanley Cup for a SCF game. And a one-way, two-year contract. Might still be NHL/AHL tweener, but with his energy, physciality and improved play he's a solid 4th line option|
|20||Kaspar Bjornqvist||20||2016 draft (2nd round)||NCAA||30gp, 3g+6a, 8 PIMs||Seemed to have somewhat quiet fresh. Season at Providence, his first in North America. Has growth potential and plenty of time to do so.|
|19||Anthony Angello||21||2014 draft (5th round)||NCAA||35gp, 12g+8a, 51 PIMs||Speedy 6'5 forward among leader in goals for Cornell, now entering junior season|
|18||Jean-Sebastien Dea||23||undrafted free agent||NHL/AHL||73gp, 18g+16a, 59 PIMs (AHL)||Remains a RFA currently, but in three seasons Dea has become among most reliable forwards in WB/S. Pens center depth isn't much, made NHL debut with 1 game in 2016-17, maybe more in store?|
|17||Teddy Blueger||23||2012 draft (2nd round)||AHL||54gp, 7g+24a, 20 PIMs||In professional debut, showed some improvement and flashes at AHL level. Pens need centers and a guy like Blueger to keep developing|
|16||Dominik Simon||23||2015 draft (5th round)||NHL/AHL||70gp, 15g+31a, 18 PIMs (AHL)||Czech forward has been productive in 2 AHL seasons, but NHL role seems unclear. Skilled enough for scoring role? Big/defensive-minded enough for checking role? Might be time to see|
|15||Ethan Prow||24||undrafted free agent||AHL/ECHL||59gp, 1g+15a, 24 PIMs (AHL)||Reports seemed to indicate a rocky rookie season for Prow, who never seemed to get feet established even in AHL level. Had a lot of hype last year, doesn't appear to have NHL potential at this point|
|14||Tristan Jarry||22||2013 draft (2nd round)||NHL/AHL||28-15-1, .925 sv%, 2.15 GAA||Very fine 2nd season for Jarry who got to take over starting AHL role. With one more year on ELC, clear he's being groomed for AHL play this year and possible opportunity to make jump to NHL backup in 2018-19|
|13||Tom Kuhnhackl||25||2010 draft (4th round)||NHL||57gp, 4g+12a, 18 PIMs||Kunhackl had first full season in NHL, and this summer gets his 2nd day with Stanley Cup. Has created niche as PK'ing 4th liner with good skating and decent offensive pop|
|12||Oskar Sundqvist||23||2012 draft (3rd round)||NHL/AHL||10gp, 0g+0a, 2 PIMs (NHL)||Controversial trade aside, Sundqvist was productive in AHL (46 points in 63 games), but again failed to make most of brief NHL opportunity in Sullivan's uptempo system|
|11||Lukas Bengtsson||23||undrafted free agent||AHL||16gp 1g+6a, 6 PIMs||Sadly, his first season in AHL plagued by complications of Lyme's disease, and that spectre continues to hover over future in competitive hockey as well. A true shame, since he was among best players in WB/S even though not 100%|
|10||Filip Gustavsson||19||2016 draft (2nd )||Sweden||4-10-0, .911sv%, 2.70 GAA||Split time between 2 highest leagues in Sweden and seemed to acquit himself well. Still needs development and will be in Europe to get it for a while. Given Pens strong goaltending, that's best for all parties at this point|
|9||Scott Wilson||25||2011 draft (7th round)||NHL||78gp, 8g+18a, 26 PIMs||Found himself on Evgeni Malkin's wing for part of the NHL playoffs, so that's a pretty good sign a career is going well. Wilson's earned Sullivan's trust and is a top-12 forward on the Pens as he ages out of this list|
|8||Jake Guentzel||22||2013 draft (3rd round)||NHL/AHL||40gp, 16g+17a, 10 PIMs (NHL)||What more can you say about the rookie who led the entire NHL in playoff goals? Very charmed season for Guentzel who went from virtually an unknown to a total star, and plenty more where that came from|
|7||Bryan Rust||25||2010 draft (3rd round)||NHL||57gp, 15g+13a, 8 PIMs||Another young 2-time Cup winner, also in franchise lore for his repeated knack for scoring huge playoff goals. Weird how some guys just seem to get all the luck, eh?|
|6||Conor Sheary||25||undrafted free agent||NHL||61gp, 23g+30a, 22 PIMs||In 2010-12, no NHL team drafted Sheary. In 2014 he could only get an AHL contract from the Pens. By 2017 he's a 2-time Cup champion, with a $3 million a year paycheck, and a center named Crosby. What a career this young man has earned!|
|5||Derrick Pouliot||23||2012 draft (1st round)||NHL/AHL||46gp, 7g+16a, 26 PIMs (AHL)||Is he unestablished in the NHL because he hasn't had enough opportunity, or has he not had enough opportunity because he's not done enough to impress? Pouliot's career is young, but already has seemingly been trapped in a vicious cycle for so long. Will 2017-18 finally be the chance he gets to stick and play in the NHL?|
|4||Daniel Sprong||20||2015 draft (2nd round)||QMJHL||31gp, 32g+27a, 8 PIMs||Coming off of 2016 shoulder surgery, Sprong absolutely beasted the Q, looking like a man among boys, like he should have. Followed that with 7 points in 10 AHL playoff games to show his future is very bright and his pro career starts now.|
|3||Brian Dumoulin||25||2012 trade (CAR)||NHL||70gp, 1g+16a, 14 PIMs||Funny to think that what was seen as the lesser of all the pieces in the Jordan Staal trade enters 2017-18 undoubtedly as the most important part of the return now, playing 1st pair minutes on Cup championship teams|
|2||Olli Maatta||22||2012 draft (1st round)||NHL||55gp, 1g+6a, 12 PIMs||A polarizing player, Maatta has become a top-4 level NHL defensive-defenseman with a good stick and positioning. But one who hasn't played well without a stud partner, and also one who's offense has seemingly dried up.|
|1||Matt Murray||23||2012 draft (3rd round)||NHL||49gp, 32-10-4, .923sv%, 2.41 GAA||One could argue he's already the best goalie in the NHL right now, but even if he's not, he's right in the conversation. For the Pens, the future is now, and it already has 8 SCF wins under his belt.|
Tomorrow we look to the beginning of the list.