Time to recap how March (and a bit of April because I’m doing this late) went for the Penguins prospects. There’ll be some updates as well on the contract statuses of a few guys.
Jordy Bellerive, 5’10, 194 (UDFA, 2017) – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Finishing the regular season as captain, top scorer and the highest number of PIMs for Lethbridge gives you a very good idea of what to expect from the ever combative Bellerive. A stellar regular season left Bellerive with 92 points (46 goals, 46 assists) in 71 games, and he’s followed this up with a 10 point performance (4 goals, 6 assists) in a 5 game playoff victory over Red Deer. He’ll become a black ace for WBS when his season ends, and may sneak into a game or two.
Jan Drozg, 6’0, 174 (5th round, 2017) – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Drozg ended his season with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) in 61 games for a god awful Shawinigan team. He has since joined WBS on an ATO, but hasn’t got into a game yet and is unlikely to. He’ll work with the black aces for the playoffs and get some work with the pros so he knows what he needs to improve on for next year. He did lead his team in points, so don’t be surprised to see him wind up a different junior team.
Daniel Sprong, 6’0, 181 (2nd round, 2015) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
15 games for Sprong in March had him show a bit more life than he had recently, with 6 goals and 5 assists through the month, with a significant portion of these at even strength. It is a nice uptick in production, but the 200 foot game is still questionable. He certainly possesses the ability to do it, and does show it, but is maddeningly inconsistent in his effort. To complicate matters, Sprong becomes waiver eligible next year and as such, must stick in the NHL. It’s unclear how the Penguins plan to address this.
Sam Miletic, 6’0, 196 (UDFA, 2017) – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
It’s still completely unclear what to make of Miletic as a prospect. He’s got 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) through 5 playoff games for Niagara as they dumped Oshawa in 5 games, but again, he’s only showing this performance while being 20 years old playing as an overager. It’s difficult to really gauge a player like that.
Kasper Bjorkqvist, 6’1, 205 (2nd round, 2016) – Providence College (NCAA)
Bjorkqvist ended his sophomore year with 16 goals and 7 assists through 40 games. A marked uptick, especially in the goal scoring, put Bjorkqvist as the joint leading goalscorer on Providence. He also scored a lot of these goals from in tight, while providing a screen for the Providence’s powerplay, much like his regular comparison of Hornqvist. Look for him to have a real good junior year.
JS Dea, 5’11, 175 (UDFA, 2013) – WBS Penguins (AHL)/Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Dea appeared in 16 games for WBS in March, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in those games. I think this is likely the end of the line for Dea as a prospect, but solid performances in the AHL will keep him around as an AHL/NHL tweener for an NHL team, if not the Penguins. There’s plenty of money to be made in that role.
Teddy Blueger, 6’0, 185 (2nd round, 2012) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
16 games for Blueger saw him turn out 6 goals and 6 assists, as well as picking up a misconduct for trying to continue an altercation against Charlotte. Developing a grittier game, Blueger does have an outside chance to make the NHL next year as a 4C depending on what happens with the NHL roster.
Thomas DiPauli, 5’11, 187 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
Once again, a disappointing month for DiPauli, who may not have much of a future in the Penguins organization. He went through a 10 game pointless drought (including the first 8 games of March) before scoring 2 goals in one game, then once again going scoreless through 2 games before getting injured. His injury history, as well as his inconsistent point production, won’t endear him to the Penguins front office.
Adam Johnson, 6’0, 175 (UDFA, 2017) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
Adam Johnson’s season continues to be a slog for him, with him only potting 2 goals and 2 assists through 16 March games. His defensive effort is also lacking at times, despite him getting into the PK rotation. An offseason of bulking up and conditioning will do wonders for Johnson.
Linus Olund, 5’11, 185 (5th round, 2017) – Brynas IF (SHL)
23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 51 games for Olund is certainly respectable, and his performance in the playoffs of 2 goals and 3 assists through 8 games is nothing to turn your nose up at either. Olund’s SHL contract has now expired, so look for him to sign an ELC with the Penguins sooner rather than later and will look to make a pretty immediate impact in the AHL.
Nikita Pavlychev, 6’7, 212 (7th round, 2015) – Penn State (NCAA)
There was 1 game Pavlychev appeared in since our last report. He didn’t score. He’s still really tall and of questionable hockey ability. That is all.
Anthony Angello, 6’5, 205 (5th round, 2014) – Cornell University (NCAA)
Angello added a singular assist in his 4 games since our last update before Cornell crashed out of the ECAC playoffs. While there is plenty of rumors of Angello coming out of college and turning pro, nothing concrete has come up. He remains Penguins property for at least another year, so if he is to turn pro, it will be to appear with the Penguins. I would be disappointed, but unsurprised, if he returns to school and tries to make it free agency in a year’s time.
Sam Lafferty, 6’1, 185 (4th round, 2014) – Brown University (NCAA)/WBS Penguins
The first NCAA prospect to sign this year, Lafferty is covered by myself here. He has appeared in 7 games for WBS since signing his ATO, registering 2 assists, a spot of PK time here and there. Look for Lafferty to do pretty big things next year when given a clear role.
Freddie Tiffels, 6’1, 201 (6th round, 2015) – WBS Penguins (AHL)/Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Tiffels spent the entire month down in Wheeling, appearing in 13 games for 4 goals and 3 assists. This really does leave questions on whether or not Tiffels has enough offensive game to even make it to the AHL full time, nevermind having an NHL future. Him coming out of college when he did was certainly confusing to me, and I haven’t felt any more confident about it since he turned pro.
Clayton Phillips, 5’11, 174 (3rd round, 2017) – Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA)
Phillips’ struggles have led to him being a healthy scratch for the month. It was certainly a big risk for Minnesota to bring him in when they did, and it didn’t work out. However, this will bode well for Phillips going forward as he’ll have some familiarity with the team and will be able to get into their summer workout program so he can add weight.
Lukas Bengtsson, 5’10, 192 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
8 games for Bengtsson in March resulted in 4 assists as he returned from a concussion. He still gets a significant number of minutes for WBS, but a rumor out of Sweden originated from a normally reliable source indicating that there is a verbal agreement for him to return to his homeland following his terrible luck with injuries and illness in North America. I’d be disappointed to see him go, but I am not at all surprised.
Dane Birks, 6’3, 183 (6th round, 2013) – Michigan Tech (NCAA)
Birks turned pro, as expected, and I covered what to expect of him here. He hasn’t appeared in any games for WBS since turning pro.
Niclas Almari, 6’3, 210 (5th round, 2016) – HPK (Liiga)/WBS Penguins
My favorite under the radar prospect, Almari has joined WBS on an ATO after his Finnish season ended with him averaging 17 minutes for the 4 March games he appeared in, registering a goal. I don’t foresee him getting into a pro game for WBS, but I’d like to see him get a chance in there. He’ll likely return to Finland for the final year of his contract over there before coming to North America full time.
William Reilly, 6’3, 196 (7th round, 2017) – RPI (NCAA)
7 goals is a very nice return for a defenseman in the NCAA, especially on a bad team like RPI, but overall, Reilly had a disappointing year after being drafted as an overager. He certainly has all the skills, but seemingly lacks the toolbox for all his tools.
Connor Hall, 6’3, 190 (3rd round, 2016) – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Hall had shoulder surgery, on the same shoulder he’s had surgery on again. In his press release regarding it, he talked about not wanting to be 25 and unable to lift his arm above his head. From his comments, and injury history, I don’t think Hall has much interest in following a career in pro hockey, and I doubt the Penguins have any interest in signing him to a pro contract. It’s a shame, as there was some untapped skills in his skillset, but his body couldn’t handle the way he wanted to play.
Antti Palojarvi, 6’1, 176 (6th round, 2017) – Luuko U20 (Liiga U20)
Another month of obscurity for Palojarvi, who is a very odd prospect, and not one I can really get a good track on. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope.
Joseph Masonius, 6’0, 190 (6th round, 2016) – Connecticut (NCAA)
A very respectable 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) for Masonius in his 28 games for UConn. I am surprised he is not yet out of college on a pro deal, but he may wish to return for his senior season and go to a different system with slightly less competition. I don’t think there’s a tremendous amount of upside for Masonius, but he’d be nice to have.
Zachary Lauzon, 6’1, 190 (2nd round, 2017) – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
The tale of Lauzon is a very much a tragedy at this point, with him only appearing in 25 games all year, registering just 4 points. He then appeared in 5 games in the playoffs (for no points, unsurprisingly) but missed the 6th game. It’s unclear whether that is through another injury or a healthy scratch, and I’m unsure which one is worse. A disappointing pick, and certainly one many wish the Penguins had back.
Ryan Jones, 6’2, 192 (4th round, 2016) – University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
4 games with 2 assists for Jones to finish out his sophomore year. Still very unclear the level of upside there for Jones, but if nothing else, his production is good relative to the other D on his team. He’s also quite big and skates well considering.
Jeff Taylor, 6’0, 185 (7th round, 2014) – Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Taylor got into 5 games for WBS in Bengtsson’s absence, registering no points, then got returned to the ECHL where he hasn’t appeared in a game since. Taylor’s offensive game in the AHL isn’t quite there, but he’s solid enough defensively. In the ECHL, he’s a significant point producer, so those skills haven’t gone anywhere. He just needs to apply them together.
Ethan Prow, 5’11, 185 (UDFA, 2016) – WBS Penguins (AHL)
Prow was in and out of the WBS lineup, appearing in 12 games in the month, rather than the whole 16 as others did. In those games, he added 2 goals and 2 assists, and was reaonsably strong defensively. The issue for Prow is that he’s 24 years old already. The Penguins will likely retain him, as a depth option, but his development has certainly been disappointing considering his pedigree coming out of college.
Alex D’Orio, 6’3, 196 (UDFA, 2017) – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
D’Orio was rewarded for his perseverance with the terrible Saint John with winning team MVP. While not exactly the kind of thing you want to win on a terrible team, says a lot about his commitment to the team and his effort on a nightly basis when things are going awfully in front of him. He has since joined WBS on an ATO, but with 3 healthy goaltenders, he’s unlikely to see action.