Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects with the Most to Prove in 2014
The Pens have a deep array of youthful talent on the blue line and in the crease. Brian Dumoulin, Simon Despres and Derrick Pouliot highlight the young defensive core, while Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray are looking forward to one day backing the club to its next Stanley Cup in net.
On the offensive front, however, prospects seem to run thin. Jayson Megna and 2014 draft pick Kasperi Kapanen seem to be the only guys that Pens fans can recite by name.
We’ll take a look here at five prospects who have the most to prove this NHL season as they take the next step in their young professional careers.
Brian Dumoulin and Simon Despres
There’s no doubt Pouliot is the team’s most prized young defenseman. He was the Penguins' eighth overall pick in the 2012 entry draft and was the Canadian major junior defenseman of the year last season.
I don’t have him listed here because I don’t think he has anything to prove yet. The 20-year-old, along with Olli Maatta, is recovering from shoulder surgery, which means less competition for Dumoulin and Despres, who now have a very good chance at earning a full-time roster spot.
Despres has the most experience of the two budding stars. In 34 games career games, he has amassed a measly five assists, but coaches are hoping he can finally break out this season and take his outstanding puck mobility and offensive prowess to the next level.
Dumoulin, like Despres, is a big, mobile d-man who is capable of becoming a shutdown player in the NHL.
With a spot primed for the taking, one of them is going to have to outplay the other in training camp and in the early portion of the season to claim the job.
Both men are exiting their youth in the next year or so, which means they better show what they’re made of now in order to deviate from spending anymore unwanted time in the AHL.
Kasperi Kapanen was the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NHL draft and has a lot to prove this year for the Penguins.
Kapanen was drafted in hopes of beefing up the team’s forward lines. General manager Jim Rutherford did a good job of doing just that by bringing in several free agents this summer, even though most of them aren’t expected to stay in the long run.
Kapanen was drafted for the long run.
The 18-year-old Finn has to prove that he cannot just compete at the NHL level but can compete soon at the NHL level.
He was drafted for his great offensive instincts on the ice, along with his creative side. If he can improve on what he is already exceptional at, then he will be ready.
Rutherford was the man who drafted Kapanen’s father, Sami, when he was GM of the Hartford Whalers. The new mastermind of this Pens team sees something special in Sami's son, so expect Rutherford to use the young winger somewhere in the first half of the regular season.
Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray
Pens fans may not know this, but there will be two battles in the crease this season. Marc-Andre Fleury will be duking it out with Thomas Greiss under the lights of Consol, but there is a smaller but equally important duel in the lower levels of the club's system.
Matthew Murray and Tristan Jarry are two outstanding goalie prospects that happen to be on the same team. Murray, 20, and Jarry, 19, probably won’t be in the big leagues until a little later in their careers, but this season marks the first step on their way to accomplishing their dream of tending the net for an NHL franchise.
Murray will be turning pro this year after spending his junior career with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, while Jarry will be backing the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL in his second year with the club. These two men will be looking to make their young careers mean as much as possible until they're ready for the NHL.
The story of the two goalies' young careers may not be on the front pages of sports sections, but the front office will be keeping a close eye on both of them until the Pens know who is more NHL-ready.