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Penguins Adding Forwards to Top 10 Prospects

Monday, 08.11.2014 / 9:37 AM / Features
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Penguins Adding Forwards to Top 10 Prospects
Here is a look at the Penguins\' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com

Under former general manager Ray Shero, the Pittsburgh Penguins' philosophy was to prioritize defensemen in the draft. That led to the Penguins producing a number of high-end defense prospects but comparatively little up front. Now the forwards are starting to catch up.

"We're starting to get these forwards coming through the turnstiles," Penguins assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. "We feel like we've got them coming through now when in the past we haven't. We feel like we've got some forwards now finally coming through instead of being deep in just [defensive] depth."

Here is a look at the Penguins' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Derrick Pouliot, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 8), 2012 draft

Last season: 58 GP, 17-53-70, plus-40, Portland, WHL

Pouliot was third among all Western Hockey League defenseman in points and was named the league's best defenseman. But what really impressed Fitzgerald was how Pouliot not only excelled offensively but raised his defensive play; he had a plus-40 rating with Portland and had five points and a plus-2 rating for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"Derrick is a fantastic skater," Fitzgerald said. "He plays with his eyes up. He utilizes the four other teammates on the ice and makes it look easy at times. We asked him to work on his [defensive] zone play, engagement, being quick and physical, take away time and space with the puck. And we've seen that."

Pouliot had shoulder surgery in May that likely will sideline him through the first six weeks of the NHL season. However, he remains a major part of the Penguins' future.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

2. Kasperi Kapanen, RW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 22), 2014 draft

Last season: 47 GP, 7-7-14, KalPa, FIN

A shoulder injury, a last-place club team and a poor showing at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship had Kapanen happy his 2013-14 season was over. While he might not have liked it, scouts did, especially those in Pittsburgh, who were ecstatic that he remained available when their turn to draft came. They were even happier after getting to see him in action at the team's development camp.

"I saw him play in August [2013] with his peer group in Lake Placid [at a junior evaluation camp]," Fitzgerald said. "And I said there's a potential for this kid being that type of player that could play [in the NHL] as an 18-year-old because of the way he skates, the way he thinks the game, shoots the puck, can play 200 feet. ... He's a willing skater. He likes to jet around, he really likes to play at a high pace and that's what we really love about the kid. We feel like this kid could come in at training camp and battle for a spot. That's how high up the totem pole we think of him."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Philip Samuelsson, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 61), 2009 draft

Last season: 64 GP, 3-19-22, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL

The Penguins weren't thrilled when Samuelsson left Boston College after two seasons, but last season, his second as a professional, he played well enough to earn a five-game NHL call-up and put himself in the running for a full-time spot in Pittsburgh this season.

"He's really come a long way," Fitzgerald said. "He had to work on his quickness, he had to work on his agility, he had to work on his strength. But he took every situation as a challenge. ... He's got such a strong work ethic, he's got the lineage. People might put a lot of emphasis on that, some people might not. But from our experience that really helped him. His dad [former NHL player Ulf Samuelsson] worked with him during the summer, showed him the conditioning part of it. He got stronger, his skating has improved. He's put himself in position to win a spot in Pittsburgh."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

4. Tristan Jarry, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 44), 2013 draft

Last season: 63 GP, 44-14-3, 2.24 GAA, .914 SVP, 8 SO, Edmonton, WHL

Most people saw the player who was named the best goaltender in the Western Hockey League and the starter in net for the team that won the Memorial Cup. However, Fitzgerald said what makes Jarry such a big part of the Penguins' future is how he recovered after going 3-5-0 and allowing 24 goals in his first eight games.

Goalie prospect Tristan Jarry is coming off a season in which he was named best goaltender in the Western Hockey League. (Photo: Getty Images)

"I gave him the, 'We love you,' story," Fitzgerald said. "We moved up in the draft to take you for a reason, we signed you right away for a reason. We're sending a development coach out there to spend time with you for a reason. We envision you being the future Pittsburgh Penguins backstop here. Don't worry about what we think. Don't worry if you're disappointing us because of your numbers because you're not disappointing any of us. ... I said just go play, I don't care if you stop another puck this year. It doesn't matter, it doesn't change the way we feel about you. I think that put him at ease.

"I don't think I talked to him after that, just congratulations on goaltender of the year, the Memorial Cup, some text messages back and forth. He basically took his career in his own hands and he took ownership of it."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

5. Brian Dumoulin, D

How acquired: Trade (Carolina Hurricanes), June 23, 2012

Last season: 53 GP, 5-16-21, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL

In his second professional season, Dumoulin did enough to earn himself six games with the Penguins. If he continues on his upward trajectory, there will be more NHL games in his near future.

"When it got down to crunch time, the [American Hockey League] playoffs, the last two seasons, Brian was our best defenseman, probably the best defenseman in the league come playoff time," Fitzgerald said. "He looked like an NHL player playing in the American Hockey League. We get excited about that. ... We believe he can play in the NHL every day."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

6. Josh Archibald, RW

How acquired: 6th round (No. 174), 2011 draft

Last season: 37 GP, 29-14-43, Nebraska-Omaha, NCHC

Archibald doesn't wow anyone with his raw skills, but his strong work ethic has him in the organization's plans.

"He works so hard and he competes and his speed creates so much for him offensively," Fitzgerald said. "He gets opportunities a lot because of his work ethic and the way he gets to the net. He's not afraid of traffic. We envision a guy like that challenging [for an NHL spot]. Is he going to need time in Wilkes-Barre? Absolutely. But if he can challenge for that competition call-up spot and get experience that way, and then grow the confidence back in Wilkes-Barre, maybe he becomes a Tyler Kennedy and finds his way to being an everyday player."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Scott Harrington, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 54), 2011 draft

Last season: 76 GP, 5-19-24, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL

His numbers might not explode off the page, but the 21-year-old plays with a maturity to his game far beyond his years or his peers.

"He plays like he's played for 15 years as a pro," Fitzgerald said. "He's got very good poise, he doesn't get rattled, he gets every shot from the point through to the net or at least to the back boards. There's so much to like about him. He's an unassuming player where at the end of the day you might not notice him but the coach is always throwing him back over the boards.

"You saw that in his junior career in London [OHL]. The one thing with Scott Harrington compared to some of the young defenseman we've had as 20-year-olds or first-year pro guys, he's the only one on the list of guys we've had that played every game for us. Joe Morrow, Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, those guys were healthy scratches at least once, because pro hockey is hard. But not once with this kid."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

8. Bryan Rust, RW

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 80), 2010 draft

Last season: 40 GP, 17-16-33, Notre Dame, Hockey East

In four seasons at Notre Dame, Rust developed from a bottom of the roster player to a versatile, important member of a winning team. The Penguins project that growth continuing as he starts his pro career in the American Hockey League this season.

"Bryan has turned out to be a real good hockey player," Fitzgerald said. "He's a jack of all trades, master of none. He does a lot of good things. ... Things weren't real rosy there at Notre Dame. But you saw the maturity in the player, not only his game but the mental side of it. He became a leader, and then his work ethic became a signature of what he was."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

9. Jean-Sebastien Dea, C

How acquired: Signed as free agent, Sept. 17, 2013

Last season: 65 GP, 49-26-75, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL

Dea is listed at 6-feet and 155 pounds, but his offensive numbers belie his lack of size.

"He came highly recommended form our Quebec scouts," Fitzgerald said. "They saw a smart hockey player, they saw compete. They saw a small player, but the other parts we believe will compensate for his lack of height or weight. He seems to be getting bigger, he's getting stronger. One thing you can't teach is hockey sense, and he's got that and he's got good skill. He distributes the puck well. We're excited to add him to the mix."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

10. Scott Wilson, C

How acquired: 7th round (No. 209), 2011 draft

Last season: 31 GP, 7-12-19, UMass-Lowell, Hockey East

Wilson gained more of a reputation for his physical play than his scoring during his three seasons in college, but the Penguins love the former and think there's more of the latter that will come as he grows his game in the AHL.

"There's a lot to like about this kid," Fitzgerald said. "He shoots the puck. He's got a quick release. Not a big kid [but] he knows how to hit. He knows the benefit of an open-ice hit, checking someone with their head down and driving through their chest. He has that in his game, along with the scoring ability. We're real excited about Scott Wilson."

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