LATEST PROSPECT CAMP BUZZ
Penguins head coach Mike Johnston knows Derrick Pouliot better than anyone else in the organization after coaching Pouliot the past couple seasons, and it’s no surprise to hear chatter this week that Johnston believes Pouliot is ready to play immediately in the NHL. Is that an opinion from others in the organization?
I’d lean in the direction of no for the most part as the sense has been that Pouliot needs some time in Wilkes Barre to further tune his defensive zone play, which will never be a strength, and with Pouliot recovering from shoulder surgery that was believed to be more of a six month injury than a four month injury, his chances of coming onto the scene and forcing his way onto the roster at somepoint this year appear unlikely even with Johnston behind the bench.
Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald, though, threw Pouliot’s name out there yesterday as potentially being an exception to the rule as the Penguins are never in the business of rushing players.
“As far as development is concerned, we feel like we’re not rushing anybody,” Fitzgerald said. “[Olli] Maatta, potentially Pouliot are exceptions to the rule. Norm is to play in the American Hockey League.”
Other than Kasperi Kapanen, the Penguins have no sure fire NHLer in their system at the forward position. The forward group, though, has not looked better. 3/4 of the prospects participating in the development camp are unlikely to have long NHL careers, but the Penguins for the first time in a very long-time, actually have some forward prospects where you can see the NHL potential from them and are worth monitoring.
It’s been rare to cover a Penguins prospect camp and see a player with the type of high end skill Kasperi Kapanen has. In the past players like Zach Sill would be coming off as the most skilled players in camp. That’s how bad the Penguins group of forwards has been.
Outside of Kapanen, there are some intriguing prospects emerging in the system:
It’s not a stretch to say that Jean Sebastien Dea is the second most talented forward in the Penguins system behind Kapanen. He possesses some high end skill and it really shows in the skilled drills. Gets the puck off his stick very quickly and thinks the game at a fast speed which is important when the competition gets tougher. Far from knowing that he’s going to emerge as an NHL player but he’s been doing something right and certainly an intriguing prospect to watch the next year or two.
Anton Zlobin isn’t as skilled as Kapanen and Dea but he’s made a big rise on the Penguins prospect board internally. Huge season coming up for him as it’s going to be a season that should be telling. Does he take that take step and put himself in contention for an NHL roster spot by 2015-2016? He’s one of the few players in the system with top-9 talent.
Oscar Sundqvist, Great size, two-way ability. Remains a long-term project but among the few prospects in the system who could emerge as a legitimate top-9 player down the road.
Another name to watch in his development next couple years is Jake Guentzel, 2013 3rd round pick. Guentzel has flashed some skill in the development camp and is already developed as a responsible defensive player. He had a very strong freshman season.
The next wave of Wilkes Barre forwards include Josh Archibald, Scott Wilson and Bryan Rust. Archibald tops the list on NHL potential, while Wilson and Rust have a chance.
Meanwhile, Dominic Uher, Adam Payerl and Conor Sheary are on the doorstep of pushing for NHL time in bottom-6 roles. Lot’s of buzz in the organization about Uher who was a 5th round pick in 2011.
Brian Dumoulin has been the story of the Penguins prospect camp. The organization is just raving about him.
Absolutely dominant and that should be the case for a player that team officials and coaches feel is ready for the NHL. He has been on a different level and that includes Scott Harrington. The only concern with Dumoulin is a slow first step with his skating when you try to evaluate him against NHL talent.
Will be something to watch in camp.