A day after adding two young players to minor league deals, the Penguins stayed active on Friday signing a bigger fish to an NHL level contract in the form of Arizona State defenseman Josh Maniscalco. From the team:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed college free agent defenseman Josh Maniscalco (man-niss-cal-COH) to a three-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
The contract will begin during the 2020-21 season and run through the 2022-23 campaign.
The 21-year old Maniscalco recently completed his sophomore season with Arizona State University, establishing new career highs in games played (36), goals (11), assists (21) and points (32). His 32 points were tied for sixth in the NCAA among defensemen, as he was one of just 10 blueliners to tally 30 or more points. Additionally, only David Farrance of Boston University scored more goals than Maniscalco’s 11 among all NCAA blueliners.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman has appeared in a total of 71 collegiate games with the Arizona State Sun Devils over the course of two seasons, where he’s tallied 52 points (15G-37A)
If anything, it’s a surprise Maniscalco was never drafted given his elite young pedigree. He prepped at the prestigious Shattuck St. Mary’s (the same school Sidney Crosby attended) and then spent a season with the US National Development team. At one time Maniscalco was a University of Minnesota commit, but flipped to attend Arizona State, where he has played for the past two seasons before now turning pro.
“Josh is a solid puck-moving, offensive defenseman,” said Rutherford in the press release. “He jumps into the rush and plays a style that is complementary to our group. We think highly of his character and are happy to add Josh to the organization.”
The Sun Devils ascending collegiate program also released a statement:
The Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania native ranked tied for 6th in points among national defensemen in 2019-20 with 11 goals and 32 points. His 11 tallies were second most among all NCAA blueliners.
“In just two short years, Josh had a major hand in bringing Sun Devil Hockey to national relevance,” said head coach Greg Powers. “He believed in our plan as a program and our plan for him as a player. We are forever in debt to him for that belief. Today is a great day for Josh and his family, as he gets one step closer to his dream of playing in the NHL.
“Josh has our unwavering support in every way. Pittsburgh is getting a spectacular player and special human being in Josh Maniscalco. Josh will forever be a Sun Devil for Life.”
Our SBN Arizona State blog House of Sparky (what a name, eh?) had an article with some interesting quotes about Maniscalco from November towards the beginning of this season:
ASU head coach Greg Powers isn’t hesitant to speak up about sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco.
“He’s a stud,” Powers said. “We knew what we were getting when we got him. He had a great freshman year, and he has just continued to evolve to the point where now, I think he’s one of the top defenseman in college hockey just as a sophomore.”
Powers’ words about being one of the top young blue-liners in college hockey isn’t an understatement. Between last season and the current 2019-20 Sun Devil schedule, he is a combined plus-18.
“He’s got everything you want,” Powers said. “He’s got poise and he can break it out better than anybody you will see, and now he’s starting to produce offensively.”
Maniscalco kept building on that season, finishing second among NCAA defensemen in goals with 11. Maniscalco had a different and bigger offensive role than John Marino, the natural comparison for the Penguins among puck moving right handed defensemen, but Maniscalco putting up the points he did at a younger age is even more impressive. At that level, which is an important disclaimer.
It’s an important signing for Pittsburgh, whose organizational right handed defenseman prospect depth chart is almost literally empty after a trade earlier this season sent former second round pick Calen Addison to Minnesota in part of the package to get Jason Zucker.
Maniscalco might not have the turnaround time of a Marino, whose emergence as an instant top-four NHL defender is almost unheard of for a reason, that reason being it almost never plays out that a hockey player can be so well-rounded and adapt to the pros as seamlessly as Marino did.
Still, Maniscalco will have his own chance and path to make it to the NHL, and if Marino’s successful rookie year proves anything it’s that you never know what could happen with a young player. This is an important and possibly meaningful future add for the Pens, who doubtlessly were able to sway Maniscalco with the prestige of developing a player like Marino.