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Ranking the Penguins top-10 Defensemen in their system

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROSPECTS
JUNE 2014 RANKINGS – DEFENSEMEN
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
Leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft and subsequent Player Development Camp, Inside Pittsburgh Sports offers a review of the team’s current prospects. Players are ranked by NHL potential, how they performed from last summer’s Development Camp through the end of the 2013-14 season. Below are the Inside Pittsburgh Sports current rankings of the defensemen in the Penguins’ system.

#1 – Derrick Pouliot (age: 20)
2013-14 Season Recap
Dominated the WHL with 17 goals and 53 assists in 58 games, winning the CHL Defenseman of the Year Award. Just as importantly, was an impressive +40 on the season. Post-season production was even better, putting up 32 points in 21 games en route to the WHL final. Off-season shoulder surgery could hamper his progress for the upcoming season.
2014-15 Outlook
Despite the surgery, Pouliot could be this year’s version of Olli Maatta. Puck skills are already at an NHL-quality level, and improved defensive play makes him the most-exciting prospect in the system, by far. Pouliot’s transition may be even smoother since new head coach Mike Johnston was Pouliot’s coach the past several seasons in the WHL.
DePaoli’s Scouting Report
The organizations top prospect, Pouliot is an offensive minded defenseman who can really skate when the puck is on his stick. Has that unique ability to skate the puck out of traffic and team officials feel he already passes at an NHL ability. Potential to be running a No. 1 power play very early into his NHL career. Will likely never be regarded as a strong defensive player, struggles with his gap control at times, but has made improvements in the past year on when to take risks and when not too.

#2 – Scott Harrington (age: 21)
2013-14 Season Recap
Only WBS player to dress for all 76 regular-season games. Slightly better offensive numbers than expected with 5 goals and 19 assists. +9 rating was a bit lower than expected, but often matched against opposition’s top forwards. Slow finish led to a poor playoff performance with just 1 assist and a -2 rating in 16 games.
2014-15 Outlook
Penguins’ need for a reliable “shutdown defenseman” boosts Harrington’s stock even further. Full year of pro hockey in 13-14 has him ready to vie for a spot in the NHL, but could be a victim of numbers on the Pittsburgh roster. Will certainly warrant NHL consideration during the season if he doesn’t make the opening-day roster and could still benefit from a few months of being the top shutdown blueliner in WBS to start the year.
DePaoli’s Scouting Report
He’s a defenseman who does everything well. Can play top-4 minutes, penalty kill, has a good first pass in transition. Harrington has a lot of Paul Martin capabilities with a little less offensive ability. Dumoulin is a bit farther along than Harrington but some believe the ceiling is higher for Harrington and could become the best of the bunch.

#3 – Brian Dumoulin (age: 22)
2013-14 Recap
Saw NHL action in 6 games with Pittsburgh, posting an assist and a +1 rating. Missed some time with Wilkes-Barre due to a few minor injuries, playing in only 53 games. Under-performed offensively during the regular season with 5 goals and just 16 assists, but emerged in the AHL post-season with 12 points in 17 games (2nd in the AHL.)
2014-15 Outlook
Slowed progress early in the year was a slight concern but he turned up his play in the AHL playoffs. Personnel moves at the NHL level could dictate his roster spot, as will the possible advancements of Simon Despres, Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington. Steady play in his debut at the NHL level in 13-14 and strong playoff performance in the AHL give reason to believe he can earn a place in the Penguins’ line-up. Can be sent down to the minors without having to go through waivers.
DePaoli’s Scouting Report
Dumoulin is a prospect with great size at 6-4, 220. He’s a smart player who does just about everything well. Has a long reach, adequete puck mover who can work the point on the power play. Not a physical player but plays with a compete level. He’s a safe prospect with little holes in his game.

#4 – Philip Samuelsson (age: 22)
2013-14 Season Recap
Tremendous start in the AHL earned him a call-up when Pittsburgh experienced a rash of injuries. Played in 5 NHL games and used cautiously, collecting no points and a -1 rating. AHL numbers were strong with 3 goals and 19 assists in 64 games, with an eye-catching +17 rating. Playoff stats trailed off with just 1 assist and a -2 rating in 8 games.
2014-15 Outlook
Improved puck skills boosts his stock, especially for the system expected to be implemented by Mike Johnston. Solidified his name among the top defensive prospects in the organization with a visible upgrade to his overall game but needs to continue that upward trend. Not likely to be a regular in Penguins NHL line-up but more ice time in WBS would only aid in his development. Samuelsson, though, is subject to waivers for the start of the 2014-2015 season.
DePaoli’s Scouting Report
A defensive minded defenseman who can excel on the penalty kill. Uses his stick very well. Has made improvements in his skating to put him in the discussion of emerging as a depth defenseman at the next level. A bit of a tweener but should have a future as a depth defenseman, No. 6/No. 7 type guy.

#5 – Reid McNeill (age: 22)
2013-14 Season Recap
Improvements allowed him to remain in Wilkes-Barre all season, playing in 55 games. Collected 1 goal and 4 assists with 119 penalty minutes. A +9 rating in somewhat limited action was his most-promising statistic, followed by a solid playoff run with 3 points and a +2 in 10 games.
2014-15 Outlook
Initially a drop-off between his spot on the list and the group above him, but he closed that gap with a good season in the AHL. Should get a full season with WBS again for 2014-15 and consistently be in the line-up. Further development into a physical presence with a stay-at-home approach could make him a valuable asset within the organization.

#6 – Ryan Segalla (age: 19)
2013-14 Season Recap
Solid freshman campaign at UConn, posting a goal and 14 assists as an 18-year-old. Second on the team in points by a defenseman, but team-high 47 PIMs and a -3 rating (tied for worst among defensemen) also stands out.
2014-15 Outlook
Good upside to his raw and flashy talent, and has plenty of time to develop. Expected to return to UConn for his sophomore season, where the Huskies will move up the D1 ranks into Hockey East. Type of player that can benefit greatly from a second-time-around at Development Camp this summer.

#7 – Harrison Ruopp (age: 21)
2013-14 Season Recap
Split time between Wilkes-Barre (21 games) and Wheeling (19 games). Collected just 3 assists all season, all with Wheeling. Combined for 75 penalty minutes in his 40 games, and leveled out his +5 in Wheeling by going -5 in WBS. Saw action in 1 post-season game in the AHL.
2014-15 Outlook
Still a relative long-shot to ever make the NHL with Pittsburgh, but 2013-14 was just his first in pro hockey. Potential to become a physical, shutdown defenseman at the AHL level and, barring a trade, will be given at least a few more years to develop and acquire some better puck skills.

#8 – Nick D’Agostino (age: 24)
2013-14 Season Recap
First year of pro hockey was modest, at best. Played 7 games in Wheeling, stumbling to a -9 rating with 3 assists. Dressed for 48 games in Wilkes-Barre, earning a goal and 9 assists with a -4 rating. Did not play in any post-season games.
2014-15 Outlook
Looking at a full-time spot in WBS. Will need to improve his defensive game while maintaining his value as a steady, puck-moving defenseman. Not likely to ever see the NHL with the Penguins, especially with so many young, skilled defensemen ahead of him. But could be reliable in the AHL and draw trade interest down the road from a club looking for a two-way defenseman at the bottom of their NHL line-up.

#9 – Dane Birks (age: 18)
2013-14 Season Recap
Returned to the BCHL for his second full season at that level. Offensive numbers did not improve, as hoped. Picked up 4 goals and 15 assists in 50 games after getting 4+17 in 52 games the season prior. Named team’s Best Defenseman and Most Dedicated Player.
2014-15 Outlook
Was only 17 years old at last year’s Development Camp, so expectations were rightfully kept low for him. Showed signs of great potential at camp, but that did not seem to carry over into his season. Expectations will remain tempered, but needs a tangible leap for the upcoming season. Committed to play at Michigan Tech.

#10 – Alex Boak (age: 24)
2013-14 Season Recap
Completed his senior season at Clarkson University before moving into pro hockey with the Nailers. A bit of an enigma offensively, having registered no goals and 5 assists in 41 games at Clarkson, but was a +1 on a team that often struggled to score. No points in 8 games with Wheeling and did not dress for any of their playoff games.
2014-15 Outlook
Likely destined for Wheeling for the upcoming year, where his aggressive play could be a very good fit on their smaller ice surface. With Pittsburgh unlikely to bring in many more defensemen, particularly without many high draft picks this season, he could be given an extended chance to improve his game and stay in the system for a few seasons.

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Dave Fryer

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