The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three Stanley Cup titles since 2009 and have made the playoffs every season since the 2006-2007 season because they have drafted well and have had a very good prospect pool. Pittsburgh's prospect pool isn't as strong as it used to be. They are deep at forward and goalie, but not that deep at defense.
With the NHL Draft next Friday and Saturday in Dallas, Texas, the Pittsburgh Penguins will look to continue to improve their prospect pool and prepare for the future. Here at the current top 10 prospects in the Pittsburgh Penguins system:
10. Connor Hall, Defenseman: He was drafted in the third round in the 2016 NHL Draft. Hall has the potential to be another version of Brian Dumoulin at the NHL level. Dumoulin is known for being a shutdown defense and Pittsburgh needs another one. Hall played 47 games last season with the Kitchener Rangers at the OHL level. He recorded 11 assists and had a plus/minus of 18 last season. The plus/minus stat improved tremendously after being a -4 in 2016-2017. Hall is 20 years old and he could be getting an entry-level contract to Pittsburgh soon. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in a Pittsburgh uniform some time next season because of the lack of depth on defense. Hall will most likely start next season at the AHL level.
9. Kasper Bjorkqvist, Forward: Bjorkqvist was a second round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He has the potential to be a second or third liner at the NHL level. Bjorkqvist is a very good two-way player. In 40 games with Providence College (NCAA) last season, he scored 16 goals and recorded seven assists. His plus/minus was 14.
8. Zachary Lauzon, Defenseman: Lauzon was drafted in the second round in the 2017 NHL Draft. He is a player that could be a shutdown defenseman for a decade at the NHL level. Lauzon is just 19 years old and the Pittsburgh Penguins are probably in no rush to bring him to the NHL. He had an injury that only limited him to 25 games during the regular season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL). He only recorded four assists and Lauzon's plus/minus was 7. In five-playoff games, he didn't score a goal or record an assist. His plus/minus was -2.
7. Linus Olund, Center: Olund was recently signed to a three-year entry level contract. He was drafted in the fifth round in the 2017 NHL Draft. Olund will most likely be a third line centerman for most of his career. He is good at faceoffs. Olund played in 51 games with Brynas IF Gavle (SweHL). He scored eight goals and recorded 15 assists. His plus/minus was -3. In eight-playoff games, Olund scored two goals and recorded three assists. His plus/minus rating was even. He is a very good penalty killer.
6. Anthony Angello, Center: Angello was recently signed to a two-year entry level contract. He was drafted in the fifth round in the 2014 NHL Draft. In 33 games with Cornell University (NCAA), Angello scored 13 goals and recorded 13 assists. His plus/minus was 16. He played in two regular season games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) and he didn't score or record an assist. His plus/minus rating was even. Angello scored two goals in two postseason games. He has the potential to be a second or third line centerman in the NHL.
5. Clayton Phillips, Defenseman: Phillips is by far the best Pittsburgh Penguins best defensive prospect. He is 18 years old and Phillips has the potential to be one of the best offensive defenseman in the game. I expect him to be the best Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman when he comes up to the NHL. It won't be for at least another couple of years because he will be playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota (NCAA). Phillips was picked in the third round in the NHL Draft in 2017. He played in three games with the Fargo Force (USHL) until he was traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). Phillips played in 13 games with the Lumberjacks. In 16 total games at the USHL level, he scored five goals and recorded seven assists. His plus/minus was -5. In 11 games with the University of Minnesota (NCAA), Phillips didn't score a goal or record an assist. His plus/minus was -3.
4. Jordy Bellerive, Center: Bellerive was invited to join the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp before the 2017-2018 season began. Jim Rutherford and others were impressed that they decided to sign him to a three-year entry-level deal right away. Bellerive played in 71 games this past season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL. He scored 46 goals and recorded 46 assists during the regular season. His plus/minus was -2. In 16-playoff games, Bellerive scored nine goals and recorded 16 assists. His plus/minus was 5. Bellerive is just 19 years old and he has shown flashes Bellerive can be an every game player at the NHL level. He can provide depth scoring and Bellerive can also be a top-six forward as well.
3. Teddy Blueger, Center: Blueger **is in to be Pittsburgh's third or fourth line centerman in 2018-2019 depending what happens this offseason. Pittsburgh could move Derrick Brassard to the wing or trade him and they could also decide not to re-sign Riley Sheahan, but I don't see why they wouldn't. The reality is Blueger will be a fourth line centerman. He is very good at winning faceoffs and passing the puck. Blueger was a second pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. In 70 games at the AHL level, he scored 21 goals and recorded 24 assists. His plus/minus was 16. In three-playoff games, Blueger recorded two assists. His plus/minus was -1. It will be a make it or break it for Teddy Blueger in 2018-2019.
2. J.S. Dea, Center: Dea has the potential to be an NHL player, but it is might be very difficult for him to be a part of Pittsburgh's plans. In 70 games at the AHL level, Dea scored 18 goals and recorded 32 assists. His plus/minus was 20. Dea also played in five NHL games this season. He scored a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes and his plus/minus was 1. Dea is already good enough to be a third or fourth line centerman in the NHL. He played in three-playoff games and Dea recorded an assist. His plus/minus was -2.
1. Daniel Sprong, Forward: Sprong is by far the best prospect in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. He was a second round pick in 2015. Sprong could have very well played in the NHL right away, but management decided not to rush him and let him develop. Now that he is 21 years old, general manager Jim Rutherford made a statement during the locker clean out press conference that Sprong will be a regular starter come the 2018-2019 season and beyond. There were questions as to how good he can play the defensive side of the puck. Sprong has been a lot better. His skating abilities and offense won't be an issue at the NHL level. In 65 games at the AHL level, Sprong scored 32 goals and recorded 33 assists. His plus/minus was 4. He played in eight NHL games and Sprong scored two goals and recorded an assist. His plus/minus was 2. In Sprong's NHL career, he has scored four goals and recorded one assist in 26 games. His plus/minus is 1. In three-playoff games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Sprong scored a goal. His plus/minus was -4. Sprong should have a solid NHL career playing alongside with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.