The 2022 version of our Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 countdown list begins with a promising, young defensemen.
#25 Nolan Collins, RD
2021 Ranking: n/a
Age: 18 (April 28, 2004)
Acquired Via: sixth round pick, 2022 draft
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 191 pounds
The Penguins picked up Nolan Collins in the sixth round of this year’s NHL draft. That puts him as a long-shot prospect, but one worth the chance with his 6’3 frame, right shot and upside. Collins is a very raw and green prospect, like so many he had to deal with the COVID interruptions that more or less wiped out a season in 2020-21, making 2021-22 his first year in the OHL.
It was a successful year, with Collins growing into the role of playing against the other team’s top line. He also has a physical edge, as evidenced by the scrap he gets into.
Collins will need to take the next step and demonstrate more offense to his game in the OHL level in the years to come and though it will take time, should eventually be a player that the Pens look to sign and add to their ranks.
One developing tenet of Ron Hextall drafting for the Pens has been adding big defensemen. Hextall has made 10 draft picks as Pittsburgh’s general manager. Five of them have been defenders (Collins, Owen Pickering in 2022, Isaac Belliveau, Ryan McCleary and Daniel Laatsch). It’s probably no coincidence that all five of them stand at least 6’2”. Pickering, as a first round pick will be on a star track and have his development closely monitored, but the Pens will be looking to develop deeper in the organization for more depth behind him.
In a perfect world, it’s not too much of a strain to see Nolan Collins become something of a Robert Bortuzzo type of player, who the Pens drafted in 2007 and is going on a very successful and lengthy NHL career. A rugged RH defender that has some size, is good in his own end, can move around well and make a good outlet pass while focusing on taking care of business in his own end. Collins is that type of player in a perfect scenario and type of situation to hope for down the road.
At just 18 years old, Collins has a long way to go before he’s even remotely close to start thinking about a potential NHL career, but he makes our Top 25 countdown list this year with his upside, size and physicality as one of Pittsburgh’s key pieces of their recent draft strategy to load up on prospects who could fit a mold one day with NHL caliber frames.