The Pittsburgh Penguins will be allowed to take 24 players to Sweden for their season opener against Ottawa, one more than usual. Because they already have 20 healthy players with one-way contracts, there is little roster space for rookies.
The Penguins have 11 forwards on one-way contracts and will have two open spots on the roster going into training camp. Penguins prospects will have ferocious competition from 26-year-old Finnish League standout, Janne Pesonen, and career minor league forwards Jeff Taffe and Kris Beech.
There are several prospects that have a chance albeit a long-shot of making the NHL opening day roster:
Pittsburgh native Bill Thomas is a favorite among prospects to make the roster. At 25, Thomas has played several seasons where he saw numerous cups of NHL coffee but never managed to stick. His right-handed shot, ability to play on both special teams, and his adept forechecking abilities make him an appealing addition to the bottom of the Pens roster.
The Penguins would like Ryan Stone to replace some of the sandpaper and physical presence lost over the summer to free-agency. After his physical performance in the AHL playoffs, Stone proved to Penguins brass that he perhaps got over some of the game-to-game inconsistencies that plagued him through the regular season. If he does not make the NHL out of training camp, he will remain on the short list if the team suffers some injuries or is looking to shake up the roster.
Dustin Jeffrey could have a similar impact for the Penguins that Tyler Kennedy had in 2007-08. An OHL standout, Jeffrey had a strong rookie tournament in 2007 and was signed to a professional contract in training camp. Sent back to the OHL for the regular season, Jeffrey impressed with 97 points in 56 games and was brought to the AHL after his post-season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds was over. With his junior eligibility up and already signed to an entry-level contract, the expectations this year will be different for the 6’3 forward.
It is no secret that the organization covets scoring wingers to complement their talented trio of centers. Many feel that Luca Caputi, a prolific scorer in the OHL, is one of those scoring wingers. While that seems like an unfair burden for a young player, expect Caputi to be skating alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal at some point during camp, just a look at least. The Penguins are in a different position than they have been in the past however, so the 6’3 left winger will not be rushed if management feels he is not ready.
With the injury to Ryan Whitney, 23-year-old Alex Goligoski will be given a long look in training camp. Goligoski’s performance in camp may not be the determining factor however. As an offensive defenseman, playing in a limited role or being a regular scratch in the NHL may be detrimental to his development. The Penguins already have seven defensemen with one-way contracts on the active roster and Goligoski would have to beat out one of those players.
Ben Lovejoy, who made a splash on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last year after manning the blue-line for Dartmouth, will also be given a look in training camp. If he does not make the roster out of camp, the right-handed defenseman will remain on the short list to get called up.
Jon Curry and David Brown will continue to backstop the Penguins AHL and ECHL affiliates with Curry getting the AHL workload and Brown the ECHL workload. The athletic goaltenders will be ready to get called up if anything happens to Penguins goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury or Dany Sabourin.