Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins actually have some interesting prospects at the junior level, this season will be a lot more fun and meaningful than recent years to track progress. And since there was a pretty eventful accomplishment this weekend by 2019 first round pick Samuel Poulin, there’s no better time than use an October 2019 update on the Pens’ prospects.
Each month we’ll look at the young players standing out, going off of the Top 25 Under 25 list. There’s no update if there’s nothing really newsworthy so omissions mean there wasn’t a ton captured that’s worth talking about this month. We’ll also skip any young players contributing at the NHL level for our purposes here, since you know all about what guys like Sam Lafferty are doing at the moment.
Unranked: Valttei Puustinen, 20, 14 games, 5 goals + 7 assists for HPK (Finland)
We didn’t even have Valttei Puustinen in this summer’s top 25 list. He didn’t stand out much at the development camp. But, wow, he’s really off to a great start in the SM-Liiga in Finland with 12 points in 14 games. He’s almost already matched his last full season output of 13 points in 47 games and currently has more points than Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi. Puustinen is the 2019 entry to the Penguins’ very consistent and deliberate strategy to draft over-age players. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Puustinen (who turned 20-years old over the summer) jumps to the pro ranks in North America.
Often overlooked, some prospects in various European leagues are off to fantastic starts.— Mason Black (@NHLRankKing) October 20, 2019
How do they match up against one another? pic.twitter.com/DBBouK3kYm
(shoutout our buddy CK for finding that tweet)
#19: Clayton Phillips, 20, Penn State (BIG10, NCA): 4 games, 0 goals + 2 assists
The 2017 second-round pick was able to get his transfer from Minnesota to Penn State completed and doesn’t have to sit out of games for a year, which is encouraging to hear (and shoutout to the Minnesota program for signing off on it to help the cause). Already a college junior despite just turning 20 last month, Phillips still has a lot of room to grow and get needed development time.
#11: Fillip Hallander, 19, Lulea (SHL): 2 games, 0 goals + 1 assist
Unfortunate update for Hallander, who fractured his leg in only the second game of the season about a month ago. Reports indicate he will be out of action for at least two more months. Shame, he was playing on the first line for Lulea when he went down.
#10: Nathan Legare, 18, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL): 11 games, 6g+6a
Legare’s boxcars are slightly down from last year’s super impressive 45 goal, 87 point campaign. But he was named to the Q’s team for the upcoming Canada/Russia series, so he’s definitely seen as one of the top forwards in the league.
#8 Jordy Bellerive, 20, Wilkes-Barre (AHL): 5 games, 0g+0a
Is it starting to look increasingly like the damage suffered in a summer 2018 fire has knocked Bellerive off course? Might be a bit harsh, but it’s not been a great debut for Bellerive. First, he was cut just days into training camp (and well before the other prospects, he was sent down mostly with afterthoughts and players on AHL contracts). Now he’s point-less in the first five games of his pro career. He’s still very young and it’s still very early, but recent developments of the past few months have not been pointing in the right direction.
#7 Calen Addison, 19, Lethbridge (WHL): 11 games, 3g+6a
Addison’s boxcars are down a bit, but he has nothing left to prove offensively in the WHL. The improvements he needs to make include getting physically stronger and developing into a better player defensively, which isn’t going to show up in boxcar stats. Addison will be a part of the WHL’s Canada/Russia series challenge.
#4 Samuel Poulin, 18, Sherbrooke (QMJHL): 11 games, 9g+13a
And now the reason that the prospect update comes early. Sam Poulin lit it up with an 8 point game on Sunday.
Poulin will join Legare as a part of the Q’s team for the Canada/Russia challenge. The level of competition isn’t super high, but it’s still a major junior league and Poulin is emerging as one of the best players in it. Amusingly enough, his 2 point/game average (22 in 11 games) only ranks tied-sixth in league scoring currently. So yeah, it’s wide open, but Poulin is now one of the older players in the league and is tearing it up, exactly what he should be doing at this stage of his young career.