The Penguins' Derrick Pouliot turns around Ben Smith of the Blackhawks in an exhibition game at the United Center in Chicago.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins' bounty of outstanding young defensemen has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years, and understandably so.
After all, it's tough to overlook the talent and potential of prospects such as Olli Maatta, Simon Despres and Derrick Pouliot, among others.
What's not so obvious is that the Penguins also have a few fairly promising, though not spectacular, forwards in the developmental pipeline.
"We've taken a lot of defensemen in the first round and we've gotten some players like [Josh] Archibald and [Scott] Wilson in the later rounds," said assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
"Players like that aren't flashy players. They're just good, all-around hockey players we feel can complement what we have in place for the next eight to 10 years."
Four of the Penguins' top 10 prospects are, in fact, centers and wingers, although none cracked the top five.
Eligibility for inclusion on the list was restricted to players with 10 or fewer games in the NHL.
1. Derrick Pouliot
How acquired: First-round draft choice in 2012.
Height: 5 feet 11.
Weight: 195 pounds.
Team: Portland (Western Hockey League).
Stats: Nine goals and 21 assists in 29 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "It's obvious why he's the No. 1 prospect on this list: The offensive upside, the way we envision him someday running our power play. He's an offensive-minded player who can really skate. Can skate the puck out of traffic or zip an NHL pass to transition his team out of its own end or the neutral zone. He has learned when to go, when not to go. His risk-management is improving every day, and that, to me, is the key to early success for a player like this, to translate to being an everyday NHL player."
2. Brian Dumoulin
How acquired: Trade with Carolina in 2012.
Height: 6 feet 4.
Weight: 219 pounds.
Team: Penguins (NHL).
Stats: No goals and one assist in six games.
Botterill's assessment: "He's a very smart player. He fits our system well from the standpoint that he's not a guy who's going to rush the puck up the ice a lot but he can move the puck, [make] a good first pass. Has very good size and reach for the defensive zone. He's never going to become a big hitter, a physical hitter, but I think that in the year-plus of his pro career, he's really improved his compete level, down low in front of the net and in the corners. The biggest thing for him to become an everyday National Hockey League player is to get used to the pace."
3. Scott Harrington
How acquired: Second-round draft choice in 2011.
Height: 6 feet 2.
Weight: 210 pounds.
Team: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (American Hockey League).
Stats: Two goals and eight assists in 28 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "He's a very reliable player, a guy you can throw out in any situation, whether it's your second power play or, in Wilkes-Barre, he's on the first power play. He plays top-four minutes, kills penalties. He plays well in all three zones. He defends well, he retrieves pucks well, he transitions pucks well. The asset that I think sometimes goes unnoticed is his ability to get pucks to the net. He consistently gets pucks from the blue line to at least the goal line, or even to the backboards. That's real important, to our eyes, for a defenseman."
Stats: 22-8-1, 2.11 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 31 games.
Botterill's assessment: "This year is a transition year for him, from the standpoint of going from being a backup in Edmonton to being the go-to guy on a pretty good team. He struggled a little bit the first month of the season, didn't get off to the start he anticipated, but really rebounded well. It goes to show that he can face a little bit of adversity and respond very well. From mid- or late-October, he's just been playing extremely well. He's turned into one of the better goalies in the Western Hockey League, for sure."
Stats: 18-6-4, 2.43 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 28 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "We've seen him for a couple of years, particularly in the summer and this past rookie camp, and it's hard to not get excited about his size and the way he plays the game. He's a traditional [goaltender]. He uses his size and he's technically sound. I don't want to say he's not an athletic-type of goalie. He plays his angles, he plays the percentages. His rebound-control has been very good. All of that translates into him being a pretty exciting young prospect who we signed for a reason."
6. Oskar Sundqvist
How acquired: Third-round draft choice in 2012.
Height: 6 feet 3.
Weight: 182 pounds.
Team: Skelleftea AIK (Swedish Hockey League).
Stats: Three goals and six assists in 32 games.
Botterill's assessment: "Oskar is a very good two-way forward, a versatile forward. He plays in a great program at Skelleftea. He's in a great environment there. ... We really like his versatility. He's a player who plays wing most of the time, but, on the junior national team, usually he's a centerman. He's a player who can play both power play and penalty-killing. Great size. He has to continue to work on his strength, and understands that. He's still a ways away from the National Hockey League -- it's still a projection -- but we certainly like the steps he has taken."
7. Scott Wilson
How acquired: Seventh-round draft choice in 2011.
Height: 5 feet 11.
Weight: 184 pounds.
Team: UMass-Lowell (Hockey East).
Stats: Two goals and eight assists in 14 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "He's an undersized winger/center, who's predominantly been a winger at UMass-Lowell, but he's a player who really fits the criteria we have for our organization. He plays with pace. He plays with grit. He's got skill. He's got vision. He's a hockey player. He does all things. He can throw an open-ice body check and actually drive through a guy. He's lights-out on breakaways. He's got a very good skills set. ... He's an exciting player for me, because I think his game will translate well to the pro game, eventually."
8. Theodor Blueger
How acquired: Second-round draft choice in 2012.
Height: 6 feet 1.
Weight: 183 pounds.
Team: Minnesota State-Mankato (Western Collegiate Hockey Assoc.)
Stats: Three goals and eight assists in 18 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "He has high hockey sense. He's a very smart player, cerebral. He plays on a team where he's leaned on, mightily, to produce. That team has had some ups and downs this year, and Teddy's game probably mirrors what his team has done. But overall, we see him as a player who, if you stick a couple of bigger, faster wingers with him -- north-south type players -- he can complement them pretty well, as they'd complement his game. Smart. Can play on the power play. Gets a ton of ice time. Penalty-kill. [Improving his] strength is something that is ongoing."
Stats: 4-2, 2.18 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in six games.
Botterill's assessment: "Unfortunately, he got injured at the start of the regular season. Give him credit, he went down to Wheeling [of the ECHL] after rehabbing his injury and got back into game shape. Since coming up to Wilkes-Barre, he's done an excellent job. He's a big goalie. Very athletic. Very competitive. And you've seen the results already. ... He's certainly open to understanding what he has to work on in his game. For him to have this much success in his first year is a big compliment to him and a big accomplishment."
10. Josh Archibald
How acquired: Sixth-round draft choice in 2011.
Position: Right wing. Height: 5 feet 10. Weight: 181 pounds.
Team: Nebraska-Omaha (WCHA).
Stats: Eleven goals and six assists in 16 games.
Fitzgerald's assessment: "He's an undersized forward who skates extremely well. I consider him fearless. He goes into the hard areas instinctively, naturally. He doesn't back down. He get a lot of quality [scoring] chances off the rush from his quickness and his speed. He's not a natural finisher, by any means, but he just gets a lot of opportunities to score goals, and he's capitalizing on that. We get excited about the competitiveness in this player. This kid actually thrives on the physical part of the game."
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