Photo: Finishing the season with an OHL championship and an appearance at the Memorial Cup, defenseman Scott Harrington easily saw the most post-season success of any Penguin prospect. (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)
Only two years ago an extended run in the NHL post-season was a seeming right of passage for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and their rabid fanbase. But after two consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, the Penguins have experienced dramatic early post-season upsets, the first in 2011 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and most recently in 2012 to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sniper Chris Kreider recently joined the Rangers for their extended 2012 playoff run. Kreider has been one of the Rangers top prospects since he was drafted in in 2009. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)
Below is the middle third of Hockey's Future NHL Organizational rankings as voted by the Hockey's Future staff. To determine the ranking, each team's entire prospect pool was taken into consideration. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice each season, in the fall and spring.
Photo: Though there were many Penguins prospects to have breakout seasons in 2011-12, none were as dramatic as forward Ben Hanowski, who in his junior season managed 23 goals and 20 assists in 39 games, more than freshman and sophomore years combined. (Photo courtesy of
Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon SMI)
The inaugural edition of the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect awards reflects the values the organization espouses with their drafting and player development. They look for players of high character who are smart, well conditioned, willing to sacrifice themselves physically, and able to play well within a heavily structured team game. The organization also values defenseman over all other positions, believing that defensive prospects are the hardest to identify and develop.
Prospect of the Year: Joe Morrow, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Photo: Despite playing in only 10 games in 2011-12, Beau Bennett decided to sign an entry-level deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, ending his NCAA career. In two seasons with Denver, Bennett managed 38 points in 47 games. (Photo courtesy of Patrick S. Blood/Icon SMI)
The Penguins have drafted heavily from the NCAA over the past several years, particularly in the mid-to-late rounds. The strategy makes sense, as it gives players who likely have glaring holes in their game more time to develop before the organization has to make a decision as to whether to sign them or not. The lighter NCAA schedule is also conducive to players who may take longer to physically mature.
The Wheeling Nailers, ECHL affiliate of the Pens, hired Alain Lemieux as
their new head coach replacing Murray Eaves (who is the brother of
former Pens asst. Mike Eaves).
Lemieux is, of course, the older brother of Pens owner Mario Lemieux.
Alain was the coach of the ECHL’s Jacksonville Lizard Kings last year
before they suspended operations at the end of the season.
The Pens also announced that they will be making more of an effort to
help the Nailers on and off the ice. The Pens signed a 5 year management agreement with Wheeling 2 yeaes ago, but interaction between the organizations has been limited the first 2 years because of off-ice bankruptcy problems with the Pens and the startup of their own AHL franchise last year. The Pens plan on sending 5 to 6
players to the Nailers this season, as opposed to the 1 player (Tom O’Connor) that they sent
each of the last 2.
They will also be doing some cross-promotions with Wheeling on their