Top 5 prospects
Eric Tangradi only played one game for the Penguins last season, but he looked fairly good in his NHL debut. Tangradi must've had five or six very good scoring chances in his first NHL game against the Islanders last season, he also looked pretty good skating wise and defensively. Tangradi holds a lot of good assets that might help him get a shot with the big club next season. He's a pretty solid skater for someone his size, he protects the puck very well down low and around the net, he's very good at establishing a net presence, and he has very good hands around the net and does most his damage around the net.
Look for Tangradi to start the season on Malkin's line.
Ben Lovejoy has shown that he's a very solid two-way defensemen at the AHL level, now let's see if he can make the transition to the NHL. Lovejoy's NHL stats have looked pretty good, in 14 games he has 3 points (3 assists) and is a +8. Lovejoy showed a very solid defensive effort when he was with the Penguins and also showed the ability to move the puck quickly and effective out of the defensive zone. The only question mark here is, can he stay that consistent an entire season.
I'd look for Lovejoy to be a 6th or 7th defensemen next season for the Penguins.
Deryk Engelland is the toughest and most physical prospect on this list. Engelland plays a style of game that consists mostly of: blocking shots, hitting everything that moves, and dropping the gloves when needed. But Engelland is more than just a tough guy, he's pretty solid defensively too. Engelland only played 9 games last season and finished a -2 with 0 points, but showed good positioning defensively and a good knack for getting in the shooting lanes and blocking shots. He also threw 25 hits in only 9 games, averaging 16 minutes a night.
Look for Engelland to be a 7th defensemen or a call up next season.
Nick Johnson played in 6 games last season, accumulating 2 points and was a -2. Johnson didn't look terrible in his first 6 NHL games, but nothing really stood out about him. Johnson showed good skating ability, grittiness, physicality and defensive awareness. He was good in corners, threw his body around occasionally, and showed good hustle. Johnson seems like a poor man's power forward.
Look for Johnson to be starting third line player (If Cooke isn't resigned) or an AHL call up next season.
Chris Connor played 8 games last season for the Penguins, accumulating 3 points (2 G, 1 A) and was a -1. Connor played fairly well in everyone of his games, he showed a lot of speed and grit similar and the ability to chip in offensively. Connor isn't an overtly physical player, but did throw the occasional hit. What really impressed me is he ability to use his speed and small stature to his advantage.
Look for Connor to be a 13th forward, a 3rd or 4th line player, or an AHL call up.