Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced their latest prospect development camp will take place beginning this Saturday and running through early next week leading into training camp for the new season.
Along with the announcement of the development camp, the Penguins also released a roster of players that will be taking part in the camp. This years roster includes a few names that fans may be familiar with, but also some fresh faces we will be seeing for the first time. Here’s a select few players to keep an eye on once development camp commences this weekend in Cranberry.
Samuel Poulin & Nathan Legare
Since being drafted in the first and third round respectively back in 2019, it feels like Poulin and Legare have been linked over the course of their development as top prospects in the Penguins system. Adding in the fact they both played for the same QMJHL for a time just made that connection feel even stronger.
With their time at the junior level now over, both Poulin and Legare will make the jump to the professional game, most likely beginning with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Both players will take part in development camp starting on Saturday and both should get invites to training camp. Unless they completely dominate and perform at a level that is hard to ignore, it’s safe to assume both will start the season in the minors.
In a depleted Penguins farm system, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Poulin and Legare. While the Penguins aren’t in a rush for their services at the moment, they are two players who will be counted in the the near future as the Crosby/Malkin era comes to a close. This season will go a long way into revealing what the Penguins have in this duo, and that journey of discovery begins at development camp this weekend.
Old is new again as the Penguins welcomed Filip Hallander back to the organization this offseason following a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Originally drafted by the Penguins in the second round in 2018, Hallander was sent away then reacquired and is now a key piece in the Penguins prospect pool.
Like Poulin and Legare, Hallander is a key piece in the Penguins system and perhaps may be more ready to take the NHL leap than the other two. He has already played professionally in Sweden and now will make his North American debut this season. It’s likely he will begin in the AHL, but he seems to be in the best position to make the NHL roster right out of camp if he puts together a strong showing.
Before we see him against the likes NHL regulars in training camp, he will join his fellow prospects at development camp. Of all the players selected to participate, Hallander looks to be the closest thing the Penguins have to an ‘NHL ready’ prospect. He could very well put on a show this weekend, which will set up nicely for his debut training camp next week.
Along with Hallander, Valtteri Puustinen is another European draft pick of the Penguins who will be making his North American debut this season. After spending his entire career to this point in his native Finland, Puustinen arrives with expectations of being another key piece of the Penguins prospect pool.
While not as highly regarded as players like Poulin or Hallander, there are still high expectations for Puustinen to be an impact player at the NHL level in the future. When that future arrives remains to be seen, but Puustinen will have a chance to prove himself at the AHL level starting this season. Although production doesn’t always carry over from the European leagues to the North American game, Puustinen has the talent to make it happen.
Development camp will be his first chance to show his talents in front of Penguins fans then he should get another shot once training camp begins as well. Like the others above him, his season is likely to begin at the AHL level where he will continue to develop and adjust to a different style of hockey. While his path to the NHL may not be as clear cut as Hallander he does have the skill to make it there in the future.
Regardless of how his professional career pans out, goalie Filip Lindberg has already made an impact in Pittsburgh. Back in April, Lindberg backstopped the University of Massachusetts to the NCAA National Championship that was held at PPG Paints Arena, recording shutouts in both the national semifinals and the final. A few months later, Lindberg decided to leave UMass and turn pro where he was signed by the Penguins in July.
Not only did Lindberg help lead UMass to a national title in the city where he someday hopes to play professionally, he did so by posting one of the all-time great seasons by a college goaltender. He thoroughly dominated the competition last season and the Penguins jumped on the opportunity to sign him once he became a free agent. Now in the system, Lindberg joins a laundry list of goaltending prospects but he will be the only one attending development camp this season.
Goaltender development is a notoriously slow process so don’t expect to see Lindberg in the NHL anytime soon, but adding him to the prospect pool does help the depth down the line, especially if his development continues in a positive fashion. He will join fellow goalies Brett Brochu and Tommy Nappier at development camp, but all eyes will be on Lindberg to see how that college talent carries over to the professional game.