The 5 Most Frustrating Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects
Since 2006, the Pittsburgh Penguins have only made a single first-round draft selection earlier than the 20th-overall pick. Despite constantly making their first selection in the back-third of the opening round—sometimes even later than that—the team has managed to find several gems.
Olli Maatta appears to have been a steal at No. 22 in 2012, and depth selections like Robert Bortuzzo have carved out roles in the NHL as well.
Not every pick the Penguins have made has been a slam dunk though. There are a few aggravating youngsters in the system that are hard to pin down. Of course, most of these players are just kids and still have plenty of time to iron out their games.
To this point though, these are the guys that have aggravated as prospects.
All statistics appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com and are accurate through games played on March 18.
Drafted: First round, 30th-overall (2009)
Age: 22 years old
Why He's Aggravating: Simon Despres has been on the verge of permanently cracking Pittsburgh's lineup for two years now. He still can't find a way to take that next step in development though, and he's been passed on the depth chart by Maatta and isn't fighting for top-four ice time like he should be—especially given the injuries on the Penguins blue line.
As a defenseman that was drafted as a slick-skating presence, Despres simply hasn't done enough damage in the offensive zone to warrant a larger role. Next year could very well be his make-it-or-break-it campaign.
The talent is there, but it always has been. It's time to put the pieces together. Scoring a goal this season would be a good start.
Drafted: First round, 20th-overall (2010)
Age: 22 years old
Why He's Aggravating: We shouldn't still be talking about Beau Bennett like he's a prospect. With only 38 games of NHL experience though, he qualifies.
While the 2013-14 campaign was supposed to be the talented forward's breakthrough campaign, Bennett has been derailed by injuries. Again.
Struggling through one string of problems is one thing, but lack of durability has been the knock on Bennett since his days in the WCHA. He's always been talented and clearly possesses plenty of finishing ability, but will he ever stay healthy enough to cement his role as a top-six forward in Pittsburgh?
Drafted: Sixth round, 173rd-overall (2012)
Age: 21 years old
Why He's Aggravating: It's tough to imagine the Penguins doing a better job in the sixth round. Anton Zlobin was one of the QMJHL's top scorers during his final year of competition at the junior level and had a strong showing in the postseason as well.
The reason Zlobin is aggravating to watch sometimes is that you can tell he is thinking the game at a high level, but his physical limitations can prevent him from executing. He's still adjusting to the professional level in the AHL, but he's susceptible to bad choices in the neutral and defensive zones as well.
Again, Pittsburgh made a great selection when they grabbed Zlobin in the sixth round. You just get the feeling there's another level to his game. The Penguins don't have a lot of dynamic talent within their ranks of forward prospects, so Zlobin's development is important.
Age: 24 years old
Why He's Aggravating: When the Penguins added Eric Hartzell as a collegiate free agent, it seemed like they had a steal on their hands. He had been the top netminder in the ECAC during the 2012-13 season and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Hartzell wasn't able to stick in the AHL this season though, and has posted a .898 save percentage in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers. At this point he's buried on the depth chart, seems to be out of room in terms of development and will likely remain a minor league goalie for the foreseeable future.
Drafted: Second round, 52nd-overall (2012)
Age: 19 years old
Why He's Aggravating: A native of Latvia that has been playing in North America since he was 14, Teddy Blueger is one of the more interesting prospects in Pittsburgh's stable. The Penguins liked him enough after his first season in the WCHA to make him a second-round pick, but the versatile forward hasn't taken a step forward in production this year.
After posting 19 points in 37 contests during the 2012-13 season, Blueger only increased his total by three points during this campaign. Usually teams want to see players making steady improvement, but the smallish-but-smart forward didn't seem to do that.