As we’re just about to hit the offseason, it’s a good time to take stock of the Penguins pipeline, as shallow as it is perceived to be. I’ll be providing an evaluation of what player they will be in the NHL, as well as a comparative player. Ranking is done on a combination of likelihood to achieve their ceiling and what their ceiling is.
27. LD Antti Palojarvi – 6th Round Pick 2017, playing for Lukko U20 (Jr. Liiga)
Unfortunately, there’s very little to go off when it comes to Palojarvi. Playing his entire year in the very sparsely scouted and acessible Finnish junior league, the 19 year old barely improved on his draft year, scoring 12 points in 44 games compared to 11 points in 47 games of his draft season. While there’s clear problems with +/- as a stat, that he was the worst on his team by -10 is not a strong comment on his defensive play. I can’t really give you a comment on what kind of player he would be, or even what his ceiling is, so Palojarvi gets to prop up the rest of the rankings.
26. LD Ryan Jones – 4th Round Pick 2016, playing for University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Drafted as a 2 year overager, Jones was already physically developed when he scored 30 points in 60 games for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in the 15-16 season. At a solid 6’2, 197 pounds, Jones is considered a throwback defender with a significant amount of snarl to his game, achieving 112 PIMS in his 15-16 season in the USHL. While fighting is not allowed in the NCAA, Jones got up to 52 PIMS as a freshman. He did take on a more refined defensive role for his sophomore year, and increased his points output from 6 points to 13 points in 34 games. While he’s never expected to be a strong puck mover, his rugged game is something the Penguins would like to employ in the AHL with regularity.
Projected Role: Depth Enforcer D
Player Comparison: Steve Oleksy/Seth Helgeson
25. C Nikita Pavlychev – 7th Round Pick 2015, playing for Penn State University (NCAA)
Mostly known for his size than anything else, Pavlychev measures in at a gigantic 6’7 and 212 pounds. While Pavlychev did score 9 goals this year in 34 games, his offensive upside is incredibly limited. He can move around the ice very effectively for a player of his size, and has a strong defensive game, but his lack of strong offensive skill at the NCAA level, and he never displayed that skill at the USHL level prior to attending Penn State. No stranger to a physical game as he racked up 161 PIMS in 58 games in the USHL before enrolling at college, expect Pavylchev to need to lie heavily on his physicality and defensive play to make a role for himself as a professional hockey player.
Projected Role: Physical Depth Forward
Player Comparison: Michael McCarron/Tom Sestito
24. RD Ethan Prow – UFA 2016, playing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
A Hobey Baker finalist and hotly contested free agent signing, Ethan Prow has failed to live up to that billing and finds himself towards the bottom of these rankings due to his age. At 25, with his 26th birthday coming in November, Prow’s failure to establish himself in the last 2 seasons of professional play lead me to question his overall upside. While he certainly wasn’t bad this season in WBS, he was far from blowing you away and given he’s a 25 year old prospect, there’s not a lot more room for growth there. He capped that off with an abysmal performance in the one game he appeared in for the Baby Penguins in the Calder Cup playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprise to see the Penguins opt to not qualify him.
Projected Role: Depth D/AHL PP Specialist
Player Comparison: Dylan Reese
23. RD Will Reilly – 7th Round Pick 2017, playing for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NCAA)
Another overage defenseman drafted by the Penguins out of the NCAA, Reilly statistically had a worse year than his freshman year, scoring 13 points in 37 games in 17/18 compared to 15 points in 35 games. However, he did see an increase in goals, scoring 7 to tie him for 1st in goals by a defenseman and tied for 3rd on the team overall. RPI were not good, but Reilly possess a whole heap of good skills, including above average skating, size at 6’3, 196 pounds and good puck ability. His issue is a lack of hockey IQ at times. While that is a result of RPI’s poor play, or Reilly’s inability remains to be seen.
Projected Role: Depth Two-Way D
Player Comparison: Jarred Tinordi
22. LW Freddie Tiffels – 6th Round Pick 2015, playing for Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
The decision for the Penguins to bring Tiffels out of college last offseason surprised me, and his performance this year would indicate that perhaps it wasn’t the best move. Spending most of his year in the ECHL, Tiffels performed adequately well with 33 points in 46 games. He also appeared in the occasional game in the AHL for WBS, managing 3 points in 12 games. His offensive upside is incredibly limited, except for when he’s playing for Team Germany inexplicably. He can skate very fast, and has a strong defensive game, but faces quite the uphill challenge to make the NHL.
Projected Role: AHL/NHL PK specialist tweener
Player Comparison: Kevin Porter/Jacob Josefson
21. LW Sam Miletic – UFA 2017, playing for Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
I didn’t really understand why the Penguins signed Miletic, and I’m not exactly sure now, but he did have a good season. After a midseason trade to Niagara, he scored 20 goals and 38 points in 28 games. While this seems like a very good point return, it’s worth noting that this season, which is his draft + 3 year, is the first time he has ever gone above a ppg in the OHL while playing on some very good London Knight teams. He is certainly someone that we need to see play in the AHL before we can say whether or not he’s worth anything as a prospect, but players with giant bumps in draft + 3 years are not exactly solid prospects.
Projected Role: Depth Forward
Player Comparison: Freddie Hamilton