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Who will be the first Penguin player born in the 2000’s?

A sign of where the Pens are lacking: no young players

NHL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Sillinger scored a goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. Sillinger was just drafted this summer and was born in (brace yourself) May of 2003. Mason McTavish of the Ducks, also with a 2003 birthdate, has made the NHL and scored earlier this season as well.

In a way, this is a sign of just how far behind the Penguins are right now when it comes to developing young talent, being as they have not yet had a player born in the decade of the 2000’s even play a regular season game for the franchise to this point.

Players in the 2000’s start with the 2018 draft class, and the Pens are a team that have traded a lot of high picks in the past few seasons, but now decisions like that start to catch up. Rival teams in the division have youngsters like Joel Farabee, Noah Dobson and K’Andre Miller (all with 2000 birthdays), Pittsburgh doesn’t have much of a youth movement to speak of.

Drew O’Connor, at 23 years old, is the youngest player to play for the Pens early in this season. John Marino at 24 is the second youngest.

Partially, it’s not a huge deal that Pierre-Olivier Joseph was born in July of 1999 and not in the 2000’s, but the divide does illustrate the Pens’ problems with young talent. Calen Addison (born in May 2000) possibly would have been the first 2000’s baby to play for the Pens, had he not been traded to Minnesota for Jason Zucker.

Other issues could be developmental. Samuel Poulin (Feb 2001) could be the first answer to the Pens’ next wave of youth, and there’s no shame in not making the NHL roster at only the start of his draft+3 season. But seven players drafted behind Poulin have already made their NHL regular season debuts. Pittsburgh waits.

The first Penguin player from the 2000’s won’t be Jordy Bellerive. Or Valtteri Puustinen. Or goalie Filip Lindberg. They were all born in 1999.

It could be Poulin, or Nathan Legare, or maybe Filip Hallander. If the young man who will eventually be the first person born in the 2000’s to play in Pittsburgh is even is in the organization at all right now.

Teams are built differently with a variety of objectives in mind, but it stands out that we’re now into the fourth year of people born in the 2000’s breaking into the NHL, and the Pens haven’t even had a single player from the decade yet. That’s more of an interesting footnote than any problem with how they are trying to build their team, but it does go to show how much super-young talent is absent from the organization.