Penguins new Top 20 prospects

By Tim Seaman

Ryan Whitney-D-Boston University

1. Ryan Whitney, D – Boston University Terriers


Much of the
2002-03 season saw Ryan Whitney playing with a bad
ankle, which caused his stats to dip from his freshman year. He seems to have recovered nicely scoring six
more points this season than he had all of last year already. He has 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists) in 28
games so far. The large, smooth skating
defender is easily the Penguins top prospect.
He has the skill to be a top pairing offensive defenseman.


2. Noah Welch, D – Harvard University Crimson


An early
season favorite to be a Hobey Baker finalist, Welch’s
numbers aren’t as great as they were last year.
He’s moved up to No. 2 in the rankings because he is the complete
package for a defenseman. He is large,
mobile and possesses excellent offensive instincts in addition to being very
solid in his own end. So far this season
Welch has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 24 games.


3. Sergei Anshakov, F –


joined the Penguins organization via the Los Angeles Kings when he and Martin Strbak were traded for Martin Straka. He is the Penguins most skilled prospect at the
forward position. He is large and very
fast, but he will have to add some more mass to his frame before he makes it to
the NHL. Anshakov
was the leading scorer for Team
Russia at the World Junior Championship in
Finland this year with 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists).


4. Colby Armstrong, RW – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


has been steadily improving his overall play this season. In 38 games he has recorded 18 points (7
goals, 11 assists), the same amount he scored in 73 games last season. He has the size, skill, grit and leadership
to be a very effective second/third line forward in the NHL.


5. Matt Murley, LW
– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


No one was
surprised that Matt Murley made the big team after
having such a strong camp. What was
surprising was his ineffective play for the first three games of the season,
which earned him a trip back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Although Murley is
having a somewhat down year compared to last year’s excellent rookie campaign,
he recently scored three points in his first AHL All-Star game.


6. Maxime Talbot, C – Gatineau Olympiques


Talbot has
picked up right where he left off last season.
After producing 104 points (46 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games last
season and 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 20 playoff games, Talbot has
scored 69 points (15 goals, 54 assists) in 38 games so far. In addition to his scoring he was also
selected as captain for Team
Canada at the 2004 World Junior
Championships. Talbot’s big numbers
won’t likely translate to the NHL, but the Penguins are hoping that his
leadership and feistiness will. He
should be a lock for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next


7. Ben Eaves, C – Boston College Eagles


Even though
he is injured again, Ben Eaves is still leading the Eagles in scoring. The captain of the Eagles is playing his
senior season and also seems to be a lock for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
next season. With the amount of skill he
has, Eaves will likely be a productive player when he is healthy, and next
season will be a test to see if his 5’8” frame can take the grind of a physical
80 game schedule in the AHL.


8. Michel Ouellet,
LW – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


spending all but four games of the 2002-03 season with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, Ouellet has
come on strong in his rookie season with the Baby Penguins, scoring 22 goals in
50 games. As one of the best pure goal
scorers in the Pens farm system, Ouellet needs to his
improve his skating and he could become a valuable player for the Penguins.


9. Michal Sivek, F – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


Although Sivek’s season has been lost to injury and his point
production has slipped, his mix of size, speed, leadership, and physical play
keeps in the Penguins top 10. Once he
matures as a player and finds his NHL game he could end up being a valuable second/third
line contributor.



10. Patrik Bartschi, C –
Kloten Flyers


came out of nowhere last season to lead the World Junior Championships in
scoring. He returned to the WJC’s this season, although he did not lead the tournament
in scoring he still put up a respectable 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists). Along with Ouellet,
Bartschi is one of the best pure scoring talents the
Penguins have in their system.


11. Andy Chiodo, G
– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


winning the OHL Goaltender of the Year award for his efforts in the 2002-03 season, Chiodo was inexplicably
not signed by the New York Islanders, who had originally drafted him in the
sixth round of the 2001 draft. The
Penguins snagged him in the seventh round of the 2003 draft and he has
responded with a productive rookie season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


12. Matt Moulson,
RW –
Cornell University Big Red


As a freshman,
Moulson led the Big Red in scoring with 23 points (13
goals, 10 assists) in 33 games. In his
sophomore season, Moulson has yet to disappoint. The large, quick skating forward has scored 30
(15 goals, 15 assists) points already this season in 25 games. If he continues to progress and translate his
game to the NHL he could one of the biggest steals in the 2003 draft.



13. Paul Bissonnette,
D –
Saginaw Spirit


nearly made the Penguins out of training camp earlier this year. With the way the Penguins are playing this season, that can easily be turned into a punch line for a joke,
but it actually speaks volumes about how mature and poised Bissonnette
was for an 18-year-old at his first NHL training camp. The Spirit’s captain’s stats are down this
year, but that is to be expected playing on a bad team. He should receive another long look in
training camp next season.



14. Daniel Fernholm,
D – Djurgarden


was said to have first round talent going into his draft year in 2002. He is finally starting to show it this
season. Playing regularly for the first
time in the SEL, Fernholm has been very
consistent. In addition to his offensive
skills, Fernholm is also a gigantic player at 6’4”
230 lbs. He will likely need a few more
years in the SEL, but he could end up being a steal out of the fourth round.


15. Ross Lupaschuk,
D – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins


has made great strides in his defensive over the past two seasons. He is currently leading the WBS Penguins in
plus/minus right now. Unfortunately, he
has had to sacrifice his offensive game to do so. So far this season he has scored three goals,
far off the pace he was on last year where he ended up with 18. If he continues to work on his defense, which
is still questionable at times, Lupaschuk has a decent
chance at making the big squad next year.


16. Bobby Geopfert,
G –
Providence College Friars


starring at the 2003 WJC’s along with another young
goaltender in the Penguins organization, Geopfert has
continued his success during his sophomore season with the Friars. He was named Hockey East Player of the Week
for the first time on February 6th. So far this season he has two
shutouts and a .920 save percentage.


17. Ryan Stone, C – Brandon Wheat Kings


some injuries, Stone has played well this year, equaling his point total of 45
(14 goals, 31 assists) from last year in 12 fewer games. He is a strong and gritty player who works
hard in the corners and will stand up for his teammates, which has seen him
rack up104 minutes in the penalty box so far this season.


18. Daniel Carcillo,
LW –
Sarnia Sting


was considered one of the best agitators in the 2003 Entry Draft when the
Penguins selected him in the third round.
He has already matched last year’s goal total of 29 in 12 fewer
games. Carcillo
also appears to be on his way to equaling or topping the 157 PIM’s he had last year with 131 in his first 53 games.



19. Erik Christensen, C – Brandon Wheat


failing to make the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton,
Christensen returned to the Kamloops Blazers of the
WHL. After a disappointing start to the
season, Christensen was traded to
Brandon where he has scored 28 points (15
goals, 13 assists) in 23 games.
Questions about Christensen’s work ethic and willingness to play in
traffic might prevent him from ever playing up to his potential in the NHL. Christensen is out of junior eligibility
after this season, so next year in the AHL will be a big test.


20. Vladimir Malenkykh,
D – Lada Togliatti


is considered one of the best defensemen in the Russian Super League. He is quite possibly the biggest hitter in
the Penguins farm system. Since being
drafted in 1999, Malenkykh has spent the past five
seasons with Lada Togliatti. So far this season he has 4 points (1 goal, 3
assists) in and 34 PIM’s in 33 games.



Missing the Cut


Stephen Dixon,CCape Breton Screaming Eagles


Dixon played along side Talbot and Fleury
at the 2004 World Junior Championships in a checking role and came home with a
silver medal for his effort. He also is
third on the Screaming Eagles team in points with 56 (15 goals, 41 assists).


Andy Schneider, D – University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux


The captain
of the Fighting Sioux had an outstanding 2002-03 season, scoring 41 points in
43 games. So far this season he has only
8 points in 27 games.



Alex Roleau, D – Wheeling Nailers


scoring 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) and adding 166 PIM’s
in 55 games with the
Val d’Or Foreurs and
the Quebec Remparts during the 2002-03 season, Roleau has only produced 1 goal in 19 games for the
Wheeling Nailers and 1 assist in 11 games for the
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.


Drew Fata, D – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton


The smooth
skating, hard hitting defenseman was recently recalled from the Wheeling Nailers for a second stint with the WBS Penguins. In 12
games he has scored 1 goal and is -2.


Lukas Bolf, D – Barrie Colts


The first
year Czech import is one of the team leaders in plus/minus on one of the top
teams in the OHL. In 49 games Bolf has scored 16
points (1 goal, 15 assists).



Organizational Assessment


Even with
Marc Andre Fleury and Sebastien
Caron graduating from the Penguins minor league system, the organization is not
as bare between the pipes as some might think.
Andy Chiodo and Bobby Geopfert
are both having good seasons in their respective leagues. Chiodo was called
up to
Pittsburgh on February 16th. He
will make his first NHL start against the team that originally drafted him, the
New York Islanders.


Moving on
to the forwards, the biggest knock on the Penguins farm system has been the
lack of pure scorers and star caliber forwards.
Over the past two seasons a few scorers have emerged, most noticeably
Michel Ouellet and Patrik Bartschi. The
addition of Sergei Anshakov
from the Kings has helped them in this department too, but they are still lacking
a star player who can bring people to the arena. With several early round
picks, possibly including the No. 1 overall pick, the Penguins will have a
great opportunity to address this need. Alexander
Ovechkin is a lock for the first overall pick, but even
if the Pens pick second or third they can still land a great scoring forward
prospect in Evgeni Malkin,
Robbie Schremp or Rostislav


One of the
most appealing aspects of the Penguins system is their depth of gritty forwards
who can score. While it’s unlikely these
players will bring their big junior numbers to the NHL, their grit and
leadership combined with their scoring could provide the Penguins with a potent
second/third line that could punish their opponents as well as score.


Gatineau Olympiques captain Maxime Talbot
is a tough player and great locker room presence. He has climbed the organizational depth chart
since being drafted in the eighth round in 2002. Second
round and third round draft picks in 2003 Ryan Stone and Daniel Carcillo were considered to be two of the best grit players
available. Due to injuries over the past
two seasons, Michal Sivek
has fallen down the rankings, but it is too early to write off the gritty
forward from the
Czech Republic.


representing the Penguins AHL club are Colby Armstrong and Matt Murley. Murley is known more for his scoring, but he can still play
a physical game and Armstrong is known more for his leadership and grit, but
can score also. Along with Sivek, these two seem to be the most NHL ready and very
well could be on the big club next year.


strongest aspect of the Penguins minor league system is the depth they possess
on defense. Even with Brooks Orpik graduating, the Penguins still have plenty of high
caliber defensemen in college, in the minor leagues and in
The Penguins top two defensive prospects and top two overall, Ryan
Whitney and Noah Welch join Orpik being American born
and having attended college in the
Boston area. Daniel Fernholm and
Vladimir Malenkykh are currently playing in the top
leagues in their respective countries.
Ross Lupaschuk is playing in his third AHL
season and is getting closer to securing a spot on an NHL roster, while Paul Bissonnette came very close to earning a roster spot during
his first NHL camp.