Ranking the Top 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects for Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins come into the 2014-15 season boasting some very promising talent within their organization.
The club is well-known around the league for having one of the top defensive crops in a long time. Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot and Simon Despres highlight this group of blueliners.
On offense, the talent doesn’t run very deep, but a few forwards have a lot of upside, such as 2014 draft pick Kasperi Kapanen.
However, there are five prospects who aren't as popular within the organization as the aforementioned guys. The players listed here are the dark horses who are looking to take advantage of the hype of others by flying under the radar to earn a spot on the pro roster in the coming years.
Read on to learn who these players are and what to expect from them. The players are ranked in order from how long it will take for them to make the NHL.
Sam Lafferty, Center/LW
Being drafted by your hometown team is something every kid dreams of at a young age. Forward Sam Lafferty got to experience that dream when he was selected by the Penguins in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
The Holidaysburg native was selected out of Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, where he played three seasons with the Big Green. He amassed 38 goals with 21 of them coming last season.
Lafferty will spend a year with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL before heading to Brown University for the 2015-16 season.
While Kapanen is the star forward of the Penguins’ offensive prospects, don’t think that will deter Lafferty from quietly making his presence known over the next few years. College will be the biggest test for the hometown kid, and he will try to surprise everyone when he is pro-ready in a few years.
Jean-Sebastien Dea, Center
Jean-Sebastian Dea signed with the Penguins to an entry-level contract in 2013 when he went undrafted two years in a row. This is surprising when you look at the stats he posted with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies over the past couple of seasons.
Last season with the Huskies, Dea netted 49 goals and 26 assists. The year before, he scored 45 goals and 40 assists and was the CHL’s Player of the Week in November of 2012.
Pretty good, right?
To the untrained eye, it’s confusing as to why a kid with this much talent missed out on being drafted twice. Everything makes sense until you look at one simple thing: his size.
Dea isn’t short at 6'0", but his weight needs some serious bulking up. At 155 pounds, he is a twig and must do something about it as he nears his first season with the Wilkes-Barre Baby Pens.
The AHL will do wonders for this kid, and if he is able to beef up, we could be seeing another Brian Gibbons-type of player on the roster in two or three years.
Teodors Blugers, Center
Teodors Blugers, also known as Theodor Blueger, is one of the more unrecognizable names in the Penguins system. The 20-year-old hails from Riga, Latvia and attends Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he will be a junior this coming season.
Blugers also went to the highly regarded Shattuck-Saint Mary’s boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota. SSM is where some of the greats in today’s game have played hockey before starting their junior or collegiate careers. Some names include fellow Penguin Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise.
Blugers was a 20-plus goal scorer at SSM and scored 88 points in his final season with the Sabres.
Drafted No. 52 overall in the 2012 entry draft, Blugers will be looking to make the jump to the NHL soon and showcase his skills. While he still is a work in progress, the Penguins are desperate for offensive depth, so he could be on the roster in a year or so.
Matt Murray, Goaltender
Former Sault Ste. Marie goaltender Matt Murray is one of the top goalie prospects in the league, but he will be flying under the radar this season thanks to the Pens’ other goalie prospect, Tristan Jarry.
Murray had a great 2013-14 run with the Greyhounds, posting a .921 save percentage as well as a 2.57 GAA through 49 games. Despite his recent success, he will be playing his first year as a Baby Penguin under the shadow of the Edmonton Oil Kings starting netminder.
Jarry backed his club to a Memorial Cup championship last season as the team’s starter. This has garnered a ton of attention for the 19-year-old, which means Murray must have a sensational rookie season in the AHL.
If he can do that, then we will be seeing quite the goalie battle to replace Marc-Andre Fleury in the coming years.
Philip Samuelsson, Defense
Philip Samuelsson was the 61st pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft and was selected for his role as a shutdown defender.
Samuelsson comes from a great hockey pedigree. His father, Ulf, won the Stanley Cup with the Pens in both 1991 and 1992, but he doesn't seem to possess the nasty side that his dad did.
Like his father, the 23-year-old plays on the blue line and could be a top defensive prospect on any other team. That is why he is on this list in the first place. Samuelsson has the likes of Pouliot and Dumoulin overshadowing him.
What will make him stand out from the other defensemen is his style of game. The other defensive prospects possess strong offensive skills, while Samuelsson is a stay-at-home kind of guy. The Pens still need that kind of player on their roster, especially in the next year or so if a current defenseman gets moved.
Despite not being one of the top three defensive prospects, he will be a great addition to the lineup and will work well with the current one when he tries to make the team full time.