There was a time couple of seasons ago where people thought the Pittsburgh Penguins had no farm system and the future looked bleak for them. Now, they are back-to-back champions and have one of the better farm systems in the NHL.
Pittsburgh feels it is important to have a youth movement within the organization. They also feel it is vital to have success in the minor leagues in order for them to be ready in case there number is called upon. Who are the top 10 prospects currently in Pittsburgh’s system?
10. Clayton Phillips, defenseman: He was drafted in the third-round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Phillips will attend the University of Minnesota and he probably won’t be in the NHL until around 2021. Phillips is offensive minded. In 56 games with USHL Fargo Force, he scored 7 goals and had 13 assists. His plus/minus was a solid 18.
9. Frederik Tiffels, forward: Tiffels was drafted in the sixth-round in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has the potential to be a valuable sniper one day. He played for Western Michigan last season. In 37 games, he scored 9 goals and had 12 assists. His plus/minus was a -5.
8. Teddy Blueger, center: He is 23 years old and Blueger’s name isn’t a hot topic when it comes to Penguins prospects. Blueget quietly contributes night in and night out. Pittsburgh is so deep at the forward spot that he may not see much NHL time with Pittsburgh, but Blueger could see NHL time with another team. He scored 7 goals and had 24 assists with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL). His plus/minus was 24. He will have another solid season at the minor league level.
7. Zachary Lauzon, defenseman: He was drafted in the second-round in the 2017 NHL Draft. Lauzon played in the QMJHL with team Rouyn-Noranda. He won the Kevin Lowe Award this past season as the best defenseman in the QMJHL. Kris Letang won that same award in 2007. Lauzon scored 3 goals and had 18 assists last season. His plus/minus was a ridiculous 42. He will most likely go back to the QMJHL this season. Lauzon could very well be with Pittsburgh in either 2018-2019 or 2019-2020.
6. Dylan Zink, defenseman: I haven’t heard much about Dylan Zink, until I researched about him. He played his college hockey at UMass-Lowell. In 41 games, he scored 10 goals and had 26 assists. His plus/minus was 1. However, Zink needs to work on his defensive game a little bit. Zink has been signed to a minor league contract for the 2017-2018 season. If Zink impresses, maybe Pittsburgh will sign him after the 2017-2018 campaign.
5. Dominik Simon, center: Simon is one of the most interesting players in the Penguins system. Pittsburgh lacks depth right now at center and maybe Simon could battle for a fourth line center spot come opening night. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Simon is 23 years old and this is probably the season it is now or never for Simon to be a consistent player in Pittsburgh. In 70 games last season Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), he has scored 15 goals and 31 assists. His plus/minus was 10. In five playoff games, he recorded three assists. Simon has played in five career NHL games and has recorded two assists.
4. Zach Aston-Reese, forward: Aston-Reese was signed as a college free agent by the Penguins and he is under contract for two years. He played college hockey at Northeastern. In 38 games with Northeastern, he scored 31 goals and had 32 assists. His plus/minus was 13. In 10 games at the AHL level, he scored 3 goals and had 5 assists, with a plus/minus of 2. Aston-Reese was a Hobey Baker Award finalist last season. He has the potential to make a name for himself with Pittsburgh sometime in the near future. Aston-Reese will probably play like 10-15 games with Pittsburgh this season, but he could easily see an expanded role in the near future.
3. Filip Gustavsson, goalie: General Manager Jim Rutherford traded up in the second-round in the 2016 NHL Draft to select Gustavsson 55th overall. He just recently signed a three-year entry-level deal with Pittsburgh, but Gustavsson will play one more season in Sweden. His record last season was 4-10 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.70 GAA. Gustavsson could be a starter in the NHL one day, but Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are ahead of him.
2. Tristan Jarry, goalie: Jarry was drafted in the second-round of the 2013 NHL Draft. He was drafted the year after Matt Murray was taken in the third-round by Pittsburgh. At one point in time, people thought Jarry was going to reach the NHL before Murray and obviously it didn’t happen. Murray just led the Penguins to back-to-back championships as the starting goalie. Jarry is NHL ready, but Antti Niemi will be Pittsburgh’s backup. It is important for Jarry to see NHL games this season because he is a restricted free-agent at the end of the season. His record last season was 28-15-1 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.15 GAA, along with three shutouts. Jarry could be a starting goalie one day at the NHL level.
1. Daniel Sprong, forward: Did anyone really think the Pittsburgh Penguins would stop finding guys who can score goals? Daniel Sprong is the Penguins best prospect because he is a lethal offensive player, but what is a major con is his defensive effort. Jake Guentzel was last season’s rookie scoring sensation. Sprong could be the 2017-2018 version of Guentzel, but he could be more dangerous. Sprong is only 20 years old and could have played in the NHL last season, but they were loaded at forward so Pittsburgh sent him back Charlottetown (QMJHL). In 31 regular season games, he scored 32 goals and had 27 assists. His plus/minus was 8. In 12 playoff games, he scored 9 goals and had 11 assists. Sprong was drafted in the second-round in the 2015 NHL Draft. He has scored two goals at the NHL level in 18 career games. Sprong dominated the QMJHL last season and it would be silly for him to play at the AHL. He is going to have a major impact with Pittsburgh this season and Sprong could score 20 to 30 goals.