The Pittsburgh Penguins are always looking for the next undrafted free agent who can make an impact. Since they trade away so many draft picks to fuel their Stanley Cup dreams, they basically have to find these alternate ways to add talent and potential contributors. It’s how they’ve added Zach Aston-Reese, Casey DeSmith, and in past years Conor Sheary, among others.
They’ll hope the next name to join the above is Michigan Tech forward Jake Lucchini. From the Pens:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed undrafted college free agent forward Jake Lucchini to a one-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
The contract will begin with the 2019-20 season. Lucchini will report to Wilkes/Barre-Scranton on Tuesday to play the rest of this season on an amateur tryout contract.
Lucchini, 23, played four years at Michigan Tech University, leading his team as captain this past season with 26 points (11G-15A) in 38 games.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound native of Trail, British Columbia skated in 164 career games with Michigan Tech, compiling 45 goals, 59 assists and 104 points. Lucchini enjoyed a career year as an alternate captain in his junior season when he recorded career highs in goals (16), assists (23) and points (39) in 44 games.
Lucchini was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s All-Rookie Team in 2015-16 after tallying 17 points (7G-10A) in 37 games. His 11 conference points ranked fourth among freshmen in the WCHA, while his two power-play goals, one game-winning goal and 59 shots all ranked second. Lucchini received the Norbert Matovich Memorial Award as Michigan Tech’s top freshman.
Lucchini was at the Pens’ prospect camp last June. In a previous year, he was at a similar summer camps with the Edmonton Oilers in 2016 and 2017 before accepting an invite to Pittsburgh last summer in 2018. BCLocalnews.com last summer interviewed him with some of the details:
“[Camp in Pittsburgh] was different from Edmonton, but it was cool,” said Lucchini. “I got to experience two different kinds of camps. Edmonton was pretty tough, fitness testing was hard, and skating, they really took it to you, but Pittsburgh was a lot different. They stressed getting to know the players, and then showing us how they work with their organization. We did fitness testing and we did skate but it was just a little bit different.”
Lucchini turns 24 in May, so he will be an older rookie. In fact, he’s a full year older than Jared McCann who was born in May 1996. Knowing that, Lucchini is going to have to hit the ground running and really turn some heads if he is to have much of an opportunity for an NHL future.
The CBA dictates how long entry-level contracts are (to break the rule down into layman terms, younger players receive the standard three-year ELC, older players get two years, and still, the oldest players get one year). At 23 going on 24, Lucchini is on the one-year deal. So if 2019-20 doesn’t go well, the Pittsburgh organization can relinquish his rights if they so choose. It’s the briefest of auditions, but it’s still a chance.
Here’s Lucchini’s Elite prospects resume:
Lucchini led Michigan Tech in points in his junior and senior seasons. I wouldn’t read too much into the boxcar regression as a senior being as the team wasn’t as offensively inclined. Lucchini is one of many candidates for the Hobey Baker as the top player in NCAA hockey, though probably not a serious contender.
As Lucchini told BClocalnews:
“They (Pittsburgh) said they liked me and are going to watch me next year,” added Lucchini. “Hopefully things work out and I do well and get an opportunity to sign a contract and play pro somewhere”
Pittsburgh obviously liked what they saw to bring Lucchini into the organization for 2019-20. Now we’ll wait and see how the opportunity goes for him.