The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect pool is well… not ideal. The Penguins have been in a state of “win now” hockey for what seems like forever, which involves trading prospects and picks to get veterans who can help the team win now. The Stanley Cup runs have hurt this team’s future in a big way, but that is the price you pay to have a chance at a cup every year. When looking at the strength of the Penguins’ current prospect pool, here are some rankings from different websites and reporters around the NHL:
- EP Rinkside: 29th
- Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 29th
- The Hockey Writers: 32nd
- Byron Bader (Hockey Prospecting): 30th
Before looking into the top prospects in the pool currently, let’s take a look at what the Penguins added in this year’s draft a month ago. With their 1st round pick (21st overall), the Penguins selected 18-yr old D Owen Pickering and have already signed him to his three-year ELC (entry level contract). At 6-foot-4, Pickering has good size for your prototypical defenseman. Pickering currently plays for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL and racked up 33p (9g-24a) in 62 games played during the 2021-2022 season. Pickering is a smooth skater, plays well in the defensive zone, and shows an offensive upside to round out his skill set. Pickering is a raw talent with a high ceiling, but has faced some consistency issues in his game. This is what allowed a player of this talent to drop to the middle/late 1st round for the Penguins to grab. If the Penguins’ development staff can work with Pickering on being more consistent in his game, he can be a great addition to the Penguins back end for a long time.
With their next pick being in the 4th round, the Penguins drafted 18-yr old G Sergei Murashov. In the MHL (Russian junior league), Murashov had a 2.49 GAA and .927 SV%. This was a slightly confusing pick because if the Penguins do have one strength in their farm, it is goalie. With their 5th round pick, the Penguins drafted 17-yr old C Zam Plante. Plante was a star for his high-school hockey team in Minnesota, and is committed to play his college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Plante is undersized by NHL standards, but makes up for his lack of size in his incredible work ethic on and off the ice. With their final selection of the draft in the 6th round, the Penguins selected 18-yr old D Nolan Collins. The Penguins traded the signing rights of forward prospect Liam Gorman to the Blackhawks in exchange for this 6th round pick, so they liked Collins enough to make a move for him. Collins is a good skater, and physical defensive-minded defensemen that plays a gritty style of hockey.
Overall, I believe the Penguins added a possible stud in Pickering, and then threw some darts at a board for the final three selections, which is what rounds four-seven usually are anyway. It is obviously tough to build a farm system when you do not have picks, but Pickering will strengthen this prospect pool for sure.
Current Top Prospects
W Samuel Poulin , 21 (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)– Poulin is the best current Penguins prospect, and is an interesting one at that. Poulin mixes good size and strength with soft hands and a good playmaking ability. This power/finesse mix has showed itself at times, but currently Poulin is struggling slightly at the AHL level, trying to convert his skills to a higher level. Poulin projects as a middle-six forward at the NHL level, and depending on his development, could be ready in a few years, if not sooner.
D Pierre-Oliver Joseph, 23 (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)– Joseph is the Penguins best defensive prospect, and has already seen playing time at the NHL level (5p in 20g). Joseph is a two-way defensemen, good skater and can transition the puck through the neutral zone well himself. His downside is a lack of size and strength and does not have any special teams upside. He is a plus defender when it comes to stopping rushes and controlling the front of the net. Joseph should earn a regular role with the Penguins this year or next, and will be a cheap option to round up the 3rd D pairing.
G Joel Blomqvist, 20 (Karpat/Hermes)– Blomqvist played the majority of his season in the SM-LIIGA, playing in 20g with a 1.32 GAA and a .940 SV%. Blomqvist did play 2 games in the AHL this past season, and played pretty well ending with a 2.05 GAA and .906 SV%. Blomqvist is an above average, but not elite athlete, and can move around the crease fairly quickly. There lacks a slight consistency in his game, and is a little under sized (6-foot-2, 183 pounds). I expect Blomqvist to spend some serious time at Scranton this next season to hopefully work on improving his consistency.
G Filip Lindberg, 23 (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)– Lindberg is a small, but athletic goalie who spent his college years at Umass-Amherst and played some games last season in Scranton. In 7 games played, Lindberg had a 2.76 GAA and a .915 SV%. Lindberg is a more NHL-ready goalie at the moment than Blomqvist, but has less potential upside. We could see Lindberg at the NHL level very soon.
RW Nathan Legare, 21 (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)– Legare spent last season in Scranton and mustered 16p (7g-9a) in 57 games. Legare is an average skater with an above average wrist shot and elite one-timer. Legare has decent hands and great size (6-foot, 200 pounds) for you prototypical winger in the NHL. I see Legare benefiting from another season in the AHL, and developing his puck handling and decision-making skills to be ready for the next level.
Other prospects– G Calle Clang (20, Rogle BK), F Filip Hallander (22, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins), F Tristian Broz (19, University of Denver)
This prospect pool lacks many things, including, no elite top prospect, no real depth at any position (goalie has some good depth), and no consistent level of high end talent. Again, this is the price you pay when you are buying at the deadline every season and pushing for Cups. There is a lot of work to be done to rebuild this farm system, because currently once the Crosby-Malkin era is over, there is nothing to replace them with. This is something that the decision makers for the Penguins organization need to be thinking about because those days will sneak up quickly.