Our annual 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
2020 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Radim Zohorna
#24: Judd Caulfield
#24 Judd Caulfield, RW
2019 Ranking: #23
Age: 19 (March 19, 2001)
Acquired Via: 2019 draft, 5th round
Height/Weight: 6’3, 203 pounds
“He certainly has some skill in his game, but that’s not why he plays. He is better off the puck than on” — McKeen’s Hockey
“A power forward, Caulfield has a big frame and plays a heavy game, which is a compliment to his demeanor” Future Considerations
Caulfield is a very interesting prospect in that while most youngsters play a hugely offensive role and rack up big time points at the lower level, Caulfield is basically already in his best role as a big-bodied, responsible player all over the ice.
Often times with mid-round picks, and Tom Kuhnhackl serves as a great example. The high scorer from juniors usually needs to learn to play a more well-rounded two-way game to find a role and fill a niche at the top level, as Kuhnhackl has done well in his career as a fourth line NHL checker.
Caulfield will need no such transition, that’s long been his game from the very beginning of his career. His 2018-19 season saw him playing on a star-studded United States development team that had 17 draft picks. Many of these players were first and second round picks that could project to skilled players higher up the board. This was basically an all-star team of elite talent, but Caulfield filled a major and key role of being a sort of Jordan Staal to his teammate’s versions of the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin star types. It’s a tried and true formula and worked well for all parties.
Caulfield projects to be a lower line player in the NHL, his ceiling isn’t sky high, but his floor also looks pretty certain. He has great size and moves around the ice well. He also is sharp off the ice, earning a NCHC conference Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and a was member of the NCHC All-Academic Team in 2019-20. He already profiles to be the “good soldier” type of player that will add to a team beyond just the boxcar stats of goals and assists.
As a freshman Caulfield finished 8th among forwards in scoring, putting up 12 points in 29 games as an 18 year old as a solid player on a strong team. As he gains experience and time in the program his role will likely grow and the opportunity to pitch in more points will be there, but he’s again working a bit opposite from many prospects being that he probably needs to prove he can score and be good enough offensively to earn promotions, rather than needing to add a defensive mindset and work on aspects away from the puck.
To that end, Caulfield was added to the 2021 U.S. National Junior Team Evaluation Camp for the WJC, making him one of the top 23 American born forwards under-20 right now. In a perfect world, he could be a Casey Cizikias-type of player, who didn’t score a ton pre-draft in the OHL but played on strong Team Canada WJC team as a responsible checker.
The Pens have often had to trade and add free agents to fill out their roster, home-growing options here would be a welcome benefit. Caulfield is a very long-term prospect who faces years worth of development to get to that point, but an organization like Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton of size or good all-around forward depth in the 18-24 year old cupboards (2020 draft pick Raivis Ansons also fits this profile) so that’s a nice touch to add.