Photo: Winger Beau Bennett has been impressive in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 21-year-old was drafted 20th overall in 2010. (courtesy of Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)
The Pittsburgh Penguins had numerous prospects with standout seasons this year, but few if any rivaled the performances of NHL rookies Simon Despres and Beau Bennett. Drafted in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Bennett and Despres were instrumental in helping the team to a 36-12 record.
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.