1. Ryan Whitney, D, will return to Boston University, where he plans to continue his education. He seems to want to graduate, but like everything else, feelings change. He could leave after his sophomore year, like Orpik, or stay in college until the end, like Leopold. Whatever the case, he’s in Boston for this upcoming year. His totals will be, barring an injury, 25-35 points, +10-20. I see him developing quite nicely this season. He is said to have worked hard weight lifting in the offseason, and my guess is that he will no longer be “skinny” come September. His hockey sense will also improve, and by the end of the season, he may only have a year until he’s ready for the big time.
2. Brooks Orpik, D, will probably start the season in Wilkes-Barre. Due to some “thick-headed” moves by Craig Patrick, the Penguins now have a log jam in their defensive depth. They acquired such 6th/7th defensemen as Bergevin, Tarnstrom, and Berry. Although Berry has some potential, Bergevin and Tarnstrom are merely hindering Orpik’s developement. There is no doubt in my mind that Orpik is ready for the NHL, and I believe he proved it last year. I can not explain some of Patrick’s offseason moves, but they are not helping young prospects like Orpik crack the lineup. He is a rugged defenseman, who could put up 10 to 20 points and have a plus/minus above zero in the NHL. However, he’ll probably start in Wilkes-Barre, where he will continue to be their best defenseman with the highest plus/minus and increase his point production to about .4 PPG. Although, I do not think that he will start the season in Pittsburgh, I believe he will join the team mid to late season and be a valuable call up.
3. Michal Sivek, C, will most likely start the season with the Baby Pens. This is probably the best place for Sivek to get used to the North American pro game. Although he did play a number of games with Wilkes-Barre last season, he still is not totally adjusted to the style. I believe that if all goes well, Sivek will score 50 to 60 points in the AHL and be called up for a few games with the big club. I see his offensive skills coming on towards the end of the year, and he will soon establish himself as a top forward for the Baby Pens. By season’s end, he should have the toughness and endurance to make the team right out of camp.
4. Colby Armstrong, RW, is ready to start his pro career in Wilkes-Barre. He should fit in well with his grittiness and intensity that has earned him comparisons to Adam Deadmarsh. I think that he will take little time to adjust to the AHL, much like Endicott last year. His point totals should range from 45 to 55 points, and I expect his penalty minutes to be in the 100’s. I don’t believe that he will play in the NHL all that much, although a brief callup of a few games is possible. I trust that the Penguins will be patient with him and wait one or two years. A positive quality of Armstrong is that he would easily fit in on the fourth line of the big club. However, as of right now, there seems to be an overload of fourth liners (Donovan, Lacouture, Manderville, McKenna, etc.).
5. Ben Eaves, C, is not usually considered one of the Pens’ top five prospects, but I have faith in him. I think that people often sell small players like Eaves short, but that’s just my opinion. Let’s not get started on that. Anyway, Eaves will continue his education at BC, and I expect him to score 55 to 65 points. He was on pace for about that until an injury put him out of the lineup. He will be Boston College’s top scorer and receive almost every honor there is in college hockey, including being a Hobey Baker candidate. Any way you look at Eaves, you can not deny his talent. He will prove himself again this year, and yet, there will still be skeptics because of his smallish frame. I am certain that he will prove them wrong as Gionta did.