Pittsburgh Penguins: Top Defensive Prospects Who Could Make an Impact in 2012-13

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2012

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24:  23rd overall pick Joe Morrow of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses for a photo portrait during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a few talented defensive prospects who could make an impact on the team's success this season once the NHL lockout ends.

As the work stoppage continues, these players will compete in the AHL or CHL to further their development.

Let's look at three of the Penguins' top defensive prospects who could play a role on the team's NHL roster if there's a 2012-13 season.


Joe Morrow

Age: 19

Height/Weight: 6'1", 206 lbs

Current Team: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)

Draft Info: 2011 Draft, 23rd overall

2011-12 Stats: 62 GP, 17 G, 47 A for Portland Winterhawks

Morrow is a very talented prospect who projects to be a solid offensive defenseman in the NHL. He's a puck-moving defenseman who skates well and can run the power play effectively with his play-making skills.

His passing ability, along with his powerful slap shot are going to make him a force on the power play for a long time, but to become a true No.1 defenseman, Morrow needs to work on some of the defensive aspects of his game.

He has the physical attributes, and the right attitude to play a rough, physical game, but his defensive awareness has to improve. He needs to be a bit smarter on his own end, but the issues he has defensively are all fixable with more coaching and experience.

Morrow will play in the AHL for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for as long as the lockout goes, but he should get a call-up when the work stoppage concludes. He's ready for the NHL right now, and can provide the Penguins with some more firepower from the blue line during power-play scenarios.


Derrick Pouliot

Age: 18

Height/Weight: 6'0", 194 lbs

Current Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Draft Info: 2012 Draft, 8th overall

2011-12 Stats: 72 GP, 11 G, 48 A for Portland Winterhawks

Many people didn't expect Derrick Pouliot to be taken so high in the 2012 NHL Draft, but when he was still on the board by the No. 8 slot, there was little doubt that Pittsburgh would select him.

He has already played five games for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks this season, and has scored five points (two goals, three assists). However, when the lockout ends, the Penguins will have the opportunity to add him to their roster for his NHL debut, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

Can we expect Pouliot to play in the NHL this season? Maybe, it depends on if the team's depth is hurt by injuries, or if someone plays unexpectedly poor to start the year. However, if he continues to play well in junior hockey, Penguins general manager Ray Shero may be impressed enough with Pouliot's progress to bring him to the NHL when the lockout is over.

Like Morrow, Pouliot has an already impressive offensive game, but needs a little more work defensively. However, he has very good awareness and is rarely caught out of position. When he's under pressure from opposing players, he uses his smooth skating and impressive composure to get out of trouble.

If Pouliot can get stronger and add more muscle throughout the winter, he could make an impact on the Penguins' roster this season as a third-pairing defenseman who can boost the team's offensive production from the blue line.


Simon Despres

Age: 21

Height/Weight: 6'4", 229 lbs

Current Team: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)

Draft Info: 2009 Draft, 30th overall

2011-12 Stats: 44 GP, 5 G, 10 A for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Despres will feature on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster for the beginning of the AHL season later this month, but it's hard to imagine him staying there once the NHL opens its doors again.

The 21-year-old defenseman played 44 games in the minors and 13 (three in playoffs) in the NHL last year. Despres could start the season on the Penguins' third pairing, and will have an opportunity to earn more ice time as the season progresses.

Pittsburgh currently has just six defenseman on its roster, so there will be no excuses for Despres if he cannot earn a regular role on the blue line during the 2012-13 season. He has the potential to be a top-four defenseman in the near future.

His vision, and his ability to move the puck up ice and enter the attacking zone is quite impressive. He also has great size and will be able to help the Penguins on the power play. Despres best attribute, however, is his high hockey IQ, which will definitely provide him with an advantage when he gets back to the NHL.

This is the season for Despres to prove that he deserves a permanent place in the NHL, and he will likely get that opportunity immediately following the work stoppage.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.