Photo: Detroit’s signing of Western Michigan defenseman Dan DeKeyser has improved the team’s breakout and transition game (courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI)
Below is the middle section of the Hockey's Future Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.
Photo: Forward Oskar Sundqvist is the only European trained prospect currently in the Penguins system. Sundqvist was selected in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
With a front office and coaching staff made up almost entirely of former NCAA hockey players, it should come as no surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins love to draft and develop collegiate level talent. However, there are also pragmatic reasons as to why Penguins draft collegiate bound players. The biggest reason is because NHL teams are afforded two more years with NCAA players before they have to make a decision regarding whether or not they will sign the player to an entry-level contract. That extra development time is crucial for a team like the Penguins, who rely heavily on mid-to-late round draft picks to keep their cupboard stocked.
Photo: Winger Beau Bennett has been impressive in his short time in the NHL. Recalled in mid-February, Bennett has played almost exclusively with forwards James Neal and Evgeni Malkin. (courtesy of Travis Golby/NHLI via Getty Images)
With the NHL salary cap scheduled to go down by almost 6 million dollars in the 2013-14 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have positioned themselves well for the short and long-term future. Many of their top prospects are either playing in the NHL or knocking on the door, and given the typically affordable salaries young players make, the organization should have plenty of room to retain several star players who will be up for contract in the coming years.
Photo: Cornell defenseman and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Nick D'Agostino will be closing out his college career once the 2012-13 season is completed (courtesy of Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletic Communications)
It wasn’t all too long ago that Cornell senior captain Nick D’Agostino was passed up in his OHL draft year, but that motivation has helped the Big Red defenseman develop into the player he is today.
Photo: Defenseman Nick D'Agostino (left) is one of only four selections the Pittsburgh Penguins made in the 2008 NHL Draft. (Rich Barnes/Icon SMI)
For as significant as the 2007-08 season was in Pittsburgh Penguins' history, the 2008 draft was fairly forgettable. The organization traded their first three picks in the 2008 draft in three separate trades. All three trades were vital in equipping the Penguins for back-to-back runs to the Stanley Cup Finals, but the most significant was the one which sent their 2008 first round pick, prospect Angelo Esposito, and forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen to the Atlanta Thrashers for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.