NHL Comparisons for Pittsburgh Penguins' Top Prospects
While the offseason is a time to look ahead to the future for every NHL franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins have even more reason to do so this offseason as changes in both the front office and behind the bench have signaled a new direction for the team and its players, present and future.
As difficult decisions loom with regard to older free agents such as Brooks Orpik and even players under contract such as James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pens will look to their farm system perhaps more than in any recent year as they look to overcome their revamp their roster.
With the Penguins putting the upheaval and uncertainty of last season behind them and looking to the future, let's take a look at the NHL comparisons for their top prospects.
NHL Comparison: Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers
Always looking to draft highly skilled and mobile defensemen who can jump into the play and quarterback a power play, former general manager Ray Shero selected Derrick Pouliot with the eight-overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Known as a pure skater with exceptional vision, a hard shot and top-notch offensive skills, Pouliot is projected to be a top-four defenseman and a fixture on the Pens' power play for years to come.
Despite his 5'11" and 195-pound frame, Pouliot has amazing balance, uses a wide base to prevent being knocked off the puck and is a willing and able battle in the corners.
Having already shown NHL-ready skills and skating ability, Pouliot simply needs to develop physically. He had to undergo shoulder surgery after the season, which requires a four-to-six month recovery.
With Paul Martin entering the final year of his contract, the Pens are eager for Pouliot to showcase his skills in the NHL, but they are in no hurry to rush him, for fear of hurting his development.
NHL Comparison: Marc Staal of the New York Rangers
Although he might not be as mobile or as skilled as some of the Penguins' other prospects, defenseman Brian Dumoulin's unique combination of size and skill have earned him strong praise from scouts and coaches alike.
Drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL entry by draft the Carolina Hurricanes, Dumoulin was acquired as part of the Jordan Staal trade and quickly earned a reputation within the organization as a "three-zone defenseman" because of his complete all-around game.
While his 6'4", 220-pound frame makes him well-equipped to win physical battles, his exceptional skating and puck skills allow him to play in any type of system and mesh well with any type of blue-line partner.
When the Pens blue line was hampered by injuries midway through the season, Dumoulin was called up to the NHL for the first time. He figures to get a chance to earn a permanent NHL roster spot in the near future.
With former Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford now running the show for the Pens, it will be interesting to see how Dumoulin is handled next season, as the Pens figure to have a lot of new faces on the blue line.
NHL Comparison: Derek Roy of the St. Louis Blues
Already regarded as having perhaps the best group of centers in the NHL with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter, the Penguins are always on the lookout for talented playmakers and believe they have found another one in Teddy Blueger.
Drafted in the second round of the 2012 NHL entry draft, Blueger has drawn rave reviews from scouts for his slick stick-handling and his ability to distribute the puck.
While his 6' 1", 180-pound frame limits his ability to play a very physical game, Blueger has shown a willingness to battle for pucks and to play a solid defensive game, which translates into a possible role as a checking line center.
A graduate of Sidney Crosby's alma mater, Shattuck-St Mary's in Minnesota, Blueger doesn't figure to reach the NHL for a while, as he needs time for his size to catch up with his skill, and the Pens are deep at the center position.
However, his potential as a top-six forward who can contribute at even strength on the power play and the penalty kill makes him an important part of the Pens' future and may earn him a spot alongside Crosby and Malkin someday.
NHL Comparison: Mark Streit of the Philadelphia Flyers
While the Penguins have compiled the most offensively skilled group of defensive prospects in the NHL, you can never have enough physical stay-at-home defensemen on your roster or in your farm system, which is why they drafted Scott Harrington in the second round of the 2011 NHL entry draft.
Viewed by scouts as a steady player with a "phenomenal hockey IQ and on ice-awareness," Harrington has the ability to not only win puck battles along the boards but to quickly make the first pass out of the zone.
At 6'2" and 205 pounds, Harrington clearly has the size to be a top-four NHL defenseman. He is also known as a good skater who can join the rush when the situation allows but is smart enough to pick the right times to do so.
With Olli Maatta already a regular at the NHL level and other defensive prospects within the organization also looking to make the jump to the NHL, Harrington may have to wait for an opportunity, but, with three defensemen entering free agency, that opportunity may not be too far off.
NHL Comparison: Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils
Selected in the second round of the 2013 draft at the highest position that the Penguins have drafted a goaltender since they made current starter Marc-Andre Fleury the first-overall pick in 2003, Tristan Jarry is viewed by scouts as a potential starting goaltender and possibly Fleury's eventual successor.
Although he is not as agile and athletic as Fleury was at the same age, Jarry is viewed as a more of a technician who relies on anticipation and positioning rather than reflexes to make saves.
Employing a hybrid-butterfly style, Jarry is capable of quickly flashing his pads to stop low shots but also likes to challenge shooters by cutting down the angles and does an excellent job at controlling rebounds.
With backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff still an unknown and Fleury entering the final year of his contract, Jarry figures to get a lot of attention within the organization and could find himself in the NHL in the not-too-distant future.