1 Very strong group of prospects at forward and defense
Thanks to the trade of Jaromir Jagr and a recent upswing in the Penguins drafts, the team has assembled quite a collection of talent thoughout the organization. The Pens have first line talent in multiple positions, with some positions with having more than one player in that class. Even with the recent graduation of prospects Milan Kraft and Andy Ference, the Pens still had enough talent to be considered by Hockey’s Future as the top organization in terms of talent.
2 Wealth of talent at Center and Left Wing
The real strength of the Penguins prospect list is in it’s depth at both Center and Left Wing. Anchored by 1999 First Round pick, Kris Beech, the Pens’ collection of talent at Center is the top reason for their #1 ranking among all NHL teams. Michal Sivek is a first-rate talent that could be moved to wing because of his versatility. Shane Endicott took large strides last year in his development and showed his potential at training camp this year. Toby Peterson and Ben Eaves are 2 smallish sparkplugs with an eye for the net.
At left wing, the top name is Belorussian Konstantin Koltsov, who play one more season in Russia before making his North American debut. The speedy LW (possibly the fastest skater in the 1999 draft) is making strides to improve his scoring and defensive abilities. RPI forward Matt Murley could be one of the top goalscorers in the college ranks this season. Alexandre Zevahkin struggled early in his first season in the AHL, but picked up his play as the season wore on and was one of ther better players in Pens training camp this year. Look for him to establish himself as a go-to guy for the Baby Pens this year. And Tomas Surovy is a sleeper that could have an immediate impact for Wilkes-Barre this season.
3 A number of prospects that are ready to contribute immediately in the NHL
Along with graduated prospects Milan Kraft, Andy Ference, and Mchal Roszival, the Pens have a number of prospects that are close to gaining regular roles with the team in the coming year. Top prospect Kris Beech will be skating on the Pens top line this year, centering NHL veterans Mario Lemieux and Stephane Richer. Toby Peterson secured a spot on the Pens 4th line this year and defenseman Josef Melichar has a spot in the Pens defensive rotation. 2000 1st rounder Brooks Orpik and Ross Lupaschuk (acquired in the deal with Washington) were just edged out for jobs, but will play pivotal roles with the Baby Pens, just a short callup from the NHL. After a strong playoff season and trainin camp this year, Eric Meloche has established himself as a player to watch for in the coming months.
1. Very few offensive minded defensemen prospects
Every team, no matter how good their prospects are, will have some weaknesses. With the Pens, it’s always been a good offensive defenseman. The addition of Ross Lupaschuk is a plus, but the Pens still don’t have enough defensemen that are legitimate NHL quality offensive type defensemen.
2. Questionable goaltending behind Caron
Goaltending at all levels is a huge question mark for the Pens. Focusing in below teh NHL level, Sebastian Caron had an up-and-down first pro season with the Pens. At times, he showed the potential to be a quality starting goalie in the NHL, while, at times, he looked a bit overmatched. In addition, Rich Parent assumed much of the workload down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Baby Pens. In Wheeling, Joel Laing had a brilliant season with a bad Nailers team. It remains to be seen what he can do at higher levels. Peter Hamerlik played very well for Kingston at the beginning of last season, yet wasn’t chosen to play for the Slovakian team in the WJCs and his play fell off in the 2nd half of the season. He needs to become more consistant in his play. Recent draftee Tomas Duba and 1998 draftee Mika Lehto are unproven in North America and college prospect Nick Boucher quietly puts up solid, yet unspectacular, numbers for Dartmouth College.
3. Extremely weak prospect list at Right Wing
Until the recent drafting of RW Colby Armstrong, the Pens list as RW was rather bare. Eric Meloche could develop into a nice tough 3rd line winger in the NHL, while Tom Kostopolous and Steven Crampton are could be counted on to be “energy” players ona 3rd or 4th line. Michel Ouellet is a one-dimensional scoring RW, but it remains to be seen if he can carry that over to the professional level