The Penguins’ prospect challenge weekend opened on Friday with a tough 4-3 loss to Boston, with basically a buzzer-beater goal to lose with 1.7 seconds left in regulation. The actual game outcome and play-by-play means very little, the purpose of the weekend is to have instruction and evaluation time for the young players and that was and will be accomplished.
These same four teams (Pittsburgh, Boston, New Jersey and Buffalo) meet every September and last year the Pens lost all of their games by a combined score of 14-4, so if anything it’s nice to see their prospect pool is a bit better and deeper now to at least be competitive in the game.
Substantial talent/depth upgrade for the Penguins at the Prospect Challenge compared to this time last year pic.twitter.com/pOcBSMI61Q— PensBurgh (@Pensburgh) September 6, 2019
(That defense last year....woof!)
Yesterday, the Pens got goals from Sam Miletic and the two prized 2019 draftees Samuel Poulin and Nathan Legare. After the game WB/S coach Mike Velucci praised those players as well as defensemen Pierre-Olivier Joseph and John Marino.
Today should prove to be the Penguins’ toughest challenge of the weekend. Pittsburgh’s prospects meet up against the New Jersey Devils prospects. The Devs’ ranked third in The Athletic’s summer prospect pool. (Pittsburgh by the way was 28th). Jersey did lose 6-4 to the Buffalo prospects last night, so it’s not like they’re infallible but they’re certainly a deep and talented bunch.
It’s headlined of course by 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes, who could be a transcendent young type of possible franchise player for New Jersey. Beyond just Hughes, NJ had a host of other players participating this weekend who already have some level of NHL regular season experience (Joey Anderson, Nathan Bastian, Brandon Gignac, Michael McLeod and Colton White).
Another player to watch is 19-year old defenseman Ty Smith, NJ’s first rounder from 2018. (Surprise, surprise, Ray Shero drafting a puck moving defenseman in the first round, where have we seen that, huh?). Smith was the WHL and CHL defenseman of the year last season and many are penciling him into the NHL opening night lineup in Jersey.
20-year old Swedish import, LW/C Jesper Boqvist is another player that All About the Jersey absolutely raves about, and might have a shot at NHL playing time this season, so keep your eye out for him too.
Saturday, September 7 (HarborCenter, Buffalo, NY)
-Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils, 3:30 p.m.
How to watch: Televised on njd.TV (online at NewJerseyDevils.com)
The NJD players will be:
Forwards (15): Joey Anderson, Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist, Graeme Clarke, Brandon Gignac, Mitchell Hoelscher, Jack Hughes, Ludvig Larson, Mikhail Maltsev, Michael McLeod, Nikita Popugaev, Yegor Sharangovich, Blake Speers, Martian Studenic, and Fabian Zetterlund
Defensemen (9): Xavier Bernard, Nicolas Canade, Jeremy Groleau, Noah King, Nikita Okhotyuk, Colby Sissons, Ty Smith, Michael Vukojevic, and Colton White
Goaltenders (3): Evan Cormier, Akira Schmid, Gilles Senn
You can see the Pens lines from yesterday, it remains to be seen if they will makes any changes. Emil Larmi (27 saves on 31 shots) probably figures to get the day off in favor of the other goalie at the even Alex D’Orio.