November Prospect Review

Welcome to the 2nd monthly update of the Penguins prospects. All stats are correct as of 29th of November.

Forwards:

Jordan Bellerive, 5’10, 194 (UDFA, 2017) – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Bellerive continues to run along at a great pace, currently at 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 23 games and taking over the scoring lead at Lethbridge. He is also up to third on the team in PIMs as he continues to show a feistiness far beyond his 5’10 frame. Lethbridge are not having a great season, and have a losing record, but sit 2nd in their division and may make the playoffs as a result of this.

Jan Drozg, 6’0, 174 (5th round, 2017) – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

As Shawinigan cement themselves as the worst junior team in Quebec, Drozg is the victim of an awful supporting cast as he sits at 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists) in 25 games, putting him 2nd on the team. For both Drozg’s development, and his own happiness, I would suspect Shawinigan looks into trading him soon as they are so far back from making the playoffs. That will be where we see how much talent Drozg has.

Daniel Sprong, 6’0, 181 (2nd round, 2015) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

When we last checked out the prospects, Sprong was on 12 points. It’s roughly 3 weeks later and he only has 14 points and Sprong is currently on a run of 4 points in his last 12 games. A cold powerplay in Wilkes-Barre is negatively affecting his production, but this has been a pretty awful month for Sprong. I don’t think he’s done as a prospect, but fans should temper expectations of when Sprong should be seen.

Dominik Simon, 5’11, 176 (5th round, 2015) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Simon is another victim of the brutally bad WBS powerplay, but currently sits at 15 points in 17 games, which is good for 1st in points for WBS. Simon has shown a lot more consistency this year than his previous two, with his longest point drought only being 3 games so far. While I’m still not sure about his long term future as an NHL prospect and especially within the Penguins organization, he’s putting together a very good year for himself. As to what that means for him going forward is anyone’s guess.

Sam Miletic, 6’0, 196 (UDFA, 2017) – London Knights (OHL)

A solid season so far for Miletic who sits at 28 points (7 goals, 21 assists), but I still can’t find much of a logic behind this signing and my bias is leading me to downplaying his year as being the benefit of two very good talents he gets to play on a line with in Robert Thomas (20th overall pick in the 2017 draft) and Cliff Pu (3rd rounder in 2016).

Kasper Bjorkqvist, 6’1, 205 (2nd round, 2016) – Providence College (NCAA)

Bjorkqvist has somewhat tailed off through the last 3 weeks, only adding an assist and a goal to get him to 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) through 14 games. While this puts him 5th for scoring among forwards for the Friars, it doesn’t fill me with confidence with regards to his upside. It’s an improvement on his freshman year, and he’s still good on the PK, but there seems to be a clear offensive ceiling there for Bjorkqvist.

JS Dea, 5’11, 175 (UDFA, 2013) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Things have just stayed the same for Dea and that’s probably the best thing for him. He’s now up to 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 17 games while regularly rolling out the best line WBS have playing with Haggerty and Aston-Reese. This season has gone so well for Dea that he’s likely to be the first or second in line for a callup to the NHL roster in the case of injuries or a trade of a forward.

Teddy Blueger, 6’0, 185 (2nd round, 2012) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Blueger continues his steady development as a bottom 6 center, upping his point output to 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) through 17 games, and was rolling on a strong 4th line with DiPauli and Sestito. However, both Blueger and DiPauli got themselves a new linemate in Sprong, and that looks to be a line going forward. Whether this is a demotion for Sprong or a promotion for the other two remains to be seen, but if Sprong can get hot, Blueger has the playmaking ability to really rack up some points.

Thomas DiPauli, 5’11, 187 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

As mentioned above, DiPauli got himself a shiny new linemate and a promotion of sorts, and has added more production to his game with 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists) in 15 games. This jump in production along with his speed, forechecking and defensive skills have pushed him into the conversation of potential callups to the NHL and I’d certainly like to see him get that opportunity once some roster dominos fall.

Adam Johnson, 6’0, 175 (UDFA, 2017) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Johnson is moving around the lineup with some regularity, having been pushed out to the left wing with the return of Colin Smith to WBS, and then moving from the top 6 to a bottom 6 role and everything in between. Johnson has had a decent season so far, registering 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) through 16 games. Expect him to get more comfortable as the year goes on.

Linus Olund, 5’11, 185 (5th round, 2017) – Brynas IF (SHL)            

Brynas are still not good, but Olund is trying his best as a 20 year old, registering 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) through 21 games which is good for 5th among forwards on his team. Trades aren’t so common in the Swedish league, so I don’t expect Olund to go to a better team for the playoffs, so he’ll likely be in WBS for the end of the regular season with Brynas flirting with the relegation spots.

Nikita Pavlychev, 6’7, 212 (7th round, 2015) – Penn State (NCAA)

Not much has changed for Pavlychev with him now up to 6 goals and no assists through 16 games. While the Penguins would like to have seen a bigger jump in offensive production, he has matched his freshman goal total in less than half the number of games and he is second on his team for goals scored. I would expect him to up his assists a bit throughout the year as a 0 assist year seems entirely unsustainable.

Anthony Angello, 6’5, 205 (5th round, 2014) – Cornell University (NCAA)

Angello increased his total up to 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) through 10 games for Cornell. I very much expect Angello to be heavily influenced into turning pro as he has seemingly developed as far as Clarkson will allow him to. He’s having a solid junior year and it would help his professional future to come out this year and learn the pro game. I still like his size and skill combination a lot.

Zach Aston-Reese, 6’0, 205 (UDFA, 2017) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Since starting the year pointless for the first 5 games, Aston-Reese sorted out his wisdom teeth and has scored 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) through his next 10 games after being placed on WBS’ best line as of late with Dea and Haggerty. While I’d like to see an increase in his goal production, he’s providing a great forechecking presence and is showing signs of improvement when it comes to his skating.

Sam Lafferty, 6’1, 185 (4th round, 2014) – Brown University (NCAA)

Lafferty has improved his output from our previous recap up to 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 9 games, but still not as good a year as his junior year. Brown have very even scoring throughout the lineup, as Lafferty is tied for 2nd in points with 3 other people. I still don’t know where this puts Lafferty in regards to the pros, but his draft rights expire on the 15th of August and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Penguins let that happen.

Freddie Tiffels, 6’1, 201 (6th round, 2015) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Tiffels did get his stint down in Wheeling, which gave him a nice boost where he put 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 6 games before being recalled to WBS, where he proceeded to get into 2 games and score his first AHL goal in one of those games. I still don’t see much of an upside to him, but his ECHL production is a solid enough start.

Defense:

Clayton Phillips, 5’11, 174 (3rd round, 2017) – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

Phillips is currently sat at 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 14 games through two different teams in the USHL and that puts him at 3rd in the entire league for points per game by a D. This pick has the potential to be another Minnesotan USHL steal by the Penguins following in the foot steps of Guentzel and I wouldn’t expect Phillips to stay at Minnesota for much more than his freshman year if he shows this talent in his freshman year.

Lukas Bengtsson, 5’10, 192 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

While the production is not quite as sexy as you’d like from an undersized D like Bengtsson, he’s suffering from a terrible powerplay like others in WBS. What is most impressive, however, is just how solid he is in his own zone. If the Penguins do trade Ian Cole as is being discussed, I would hope the Penguins give Bengtsson a solid go at earning a full time NHL spot this year. His play in WBS has deserved that opportunity.

Dane Birks, 6’2, 183 (6th round, 2013) – Michigan Tech (NCAA)

Birks is continuing to have quite the good junior year, putting up 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 17 games while providing to be a steady defensive presence. Birks’ year may have played himself back into consideration for an ELC. I don’t expect fireworks from Birks, but if he can develop into a solid depth callup option in case of injuries, that’s a solid 6th round pick up.

Niclas Almari, 6’2, 181 (5th round, 2016) – HPK (Liiga)

I don’t fully understand what HPK is doing with Almari at this point. Since our last update, he’s only managed to get into 1 game for HPK and played 2 on loan to a Finnish 2nd division team. I don’t entirely follow if he was injured or they just felt like he needed healthy scratching, but I think this would only push the Penguins to want Almari to come over to North America sooner rather than later. HPK don’t seem likely to make the playoffs, so we might see that soon.

William Reilly, 6’3, 196 (7th round, 2017) – RPI (NCAA)

Reilly hasn’t really improved much since our last update, only adding a goal to get 5 goals and 1 assist through 14 games. While I’m still high on Reilly as he has good skating and size, and is on pace to tie his production from his freshman, I hope he can hit another jump in production and his 5 goals does have him tied for first in the team for goal scoring.

Connor Hall, 6’3, 190 (3rd round, 2016) – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Since our last update, Hall has played 10 more games and registered 3 more assists to get to 6 points (6 assists) in 27 games. There is still no real guarantee on Hall getting himself an ELC, even though he is a third round pick. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Penguins give him an AHL contract and see if he shows any development in the pro game before handing out an ELC.

Antti Palojarvi, 6’1, 176 (6th round, 2017) – Luuko U20 (Liiga U20)

Not much has changed for Palojarvi as he’s now at 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 22 games. He ranks 5th on his team in defenseman for scoring, which is really disappointing as he doesn’t appear to be bringing much to the party for his team. I’m not sure where he goes from here or what the Penguins really saw from him when they drafted him, but it doesn’t look like he has a bright future.

Joseph Masonius, 6’0, 190 (6th round, 2016) – Connecticut (NCAA)

Masonius got 5 more games in from our last check in, and added another 2 assists to get to 4 assists in his 10 games played. He’s only taken 3 minors in those 5 games, but there’s not a whole lot to write about Masonius as he is a pretty bland prospect. I don’t suspect the Pens will try to entice him out of college until his senior year is over.

Zachary Lauzon, 6’1, 190 (2nd round, 2017) – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

While he has returned from injury, Lauzon hasn’t shown a whole lot of offensive development, as he only has 2 assists in his 11 games so far this year. He has 25 PIMs, so is showing off his physical side, but there’s not the development you would have liked to see from a guy picked as far off the board as the Penguins did pick Lauzon.

Ryan Jones, 6’2, 192 (4th round, 2016) – University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)

Jones hasn’t added anything to his stat sheet since our last article, as he’s still at 1 assist through 10 games. Scoring isn’t super high on Nebraska-Omaha, but Jones’ return is not anything to get excited over and I think he’s going to go the way of Reid McNeill and Ryan Segalla et al in that he won’t ever be anything to look at and be happy with.

Jeff Taylor, 6’0, 185 (7th round, 2014) – Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)

Finally healthy and reassigned to Wheeling, Jeff Taylor is putting together a very solid season so far with 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 10 games and looks to be thriving with the Penguins taking a slow approach to his development. He’s not likely to get into many AHL games with the amount of the depth that WBS has on defence, but a year of being relied upon by Wheeling in every situation will benefit his development.

Ethan Prow, 5’11, 185 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)

Prow has found himself healthy scratched on numerous other occasions, and has picked up a bit of an injury, but only managed to appear in 6 games getting himself 1 assist. There is very little to be excited about with Prow right now and I very much expect that the Penguins won’t tender him a contract when his contract expires this year.

Goalie:

Tristan Jarry, 6’2, 194 (2nd round, 2013) – WBS/Pittsburgh

Jarry has found himself in sole possession of the Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie spot for the next 2-3 weeks as Matt Murray has picked up a lower body injury. His stats sit at a 2.83 GAA and a .907% in 4 games, but I very much expect those will increase as he sits on the starting hill and puts in solid performances like he has in backup duty so far. This is going to be very good for Jarry’s development.

Filip Gustavsson, 6’2, 183 (2nd round, 2016) – Lulea HF (SHL)

Playing 9 games, getting a 2.65 GAA and a .900% is a very good showing for a 19 year old in a men’s league like Gustavsson is. His stats are down a little bit from our last look, but he’s still very young and seems to be getting into more games than you’d expect from a backup, so this is a good thing for him in the long run. Expect him to keep the pipeline of good goalies chugging along.

Sean Maguire, 6’2, 203 (4th round, 2012) – Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)

This next 2-3 weeks will be a make or break period for the prospects of Maguire as a professional goalie. With DeSmith recalled to the NHL to serve as Jarry’s backup, Maguire now takes sole possession of the WBS net and has an opportunity to prove himself. His ECHL stats of 3.28 GAA and a .910% are pretty solid, if unspectacular, so we will see if that’s a result of Wheeling’s play or if Maguire is a solid goalie.

Alex D’Orio, 6’3, 196 (UDFA, 2017) – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

D’Orio continues to suffer through Saint John being terrible as he has a 3.43 GAA and a .897%. He’s likely hoping for a trade to a better team and I have no doubt the Penguins feel the same way. It’ll be interesting to see if that trade happens and if he so, how his stats improve.

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