Penguins Announce Full Roster for Development Camp; We Use it as a Reason to Examine the Pens’ System

The Penguins announced that 37 players will attend development camp. You can get the story from the Pens themselves right here. You can get a sheet on the attendees right here. But that’s not the point of this post, this post is a look into the Penguins farm system, at the guys who will be at this development camp and who could one day don the Black and Vegas Gold for real inside of Consol Energy Center. I make no claim to being an expert on predicting a player’s ability to be successful at the NHL level and I really don’t spend much time on prospects except for like a week before the draft. As such, this post is just going to draw attention to a few guys that I would think are worth watching in camp and in their junior/collegiate/minor league careers.

Defense

The “Big Four”: This is my coverall name for Brian Dumolin, Scott Harrington, Olli Maatta, and Derrick Pouliot. They all have the opportunity to be future NHL All-Stars, franchise cornerstones, or more. Will many of them do it in Pittsburgh? Probably not. But if you were judging this franchises’ prospects and just looked at these four guys, everything would be coming up roses. For what it’s worth, I’m most interested in Dumolin, he’s the biggest (size wise: 6’4”, 219) of the “Big Four” and he had a really solid season in Wilkes Barre. Maybe just because he’s another Boston College product but I view Dumolin as a more skillsy Brooks Orpik.

Nick D’Agostino: Don’t confuse him with the recently signed Matt D’Agostini or Kenny Agostino who was traded to Calgary in the Jarome Iginla trade. This guy’s a blueliner from Cornell who signed a contract with the Pens in May. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find his draft class, but that’s okay. He was a solid producer who has gone from a borderline-prospect to a sure thing professional through his play in college. Where he’ll play in the Pens organization is a huge question but he’s worth watching.

Harrison Ruopp: Probably the best “defensive defenseman” prospect in the Pens’ system, he was acquired when the Penguins gave Zbynek Michalek back to the Phoenix Coyotes. He totaled 132 PIMs in his final year of junior. Knowing that Orpik and Rob Scuderi are not getting any younger, his progression is one that should be watched closely.

Forwards

Teddy Blueger: He’s the highest drafted forward in the Pens’ system (2nd round pick in 2012) and he seems to be on a very nice development track. He played high school hockey at Shattuck St. Mary’s (same as Sid) and is now at college at Minnesota State. I’m not saying this guy is the Penguins’ top forward prospect, but he bears watching if for no other reason than because he is highly regarded, although viewed as a definite long-range project. He’s a natural center.

Oskar Sundqvist: Another natural center, Sundqvist, a rare European prospect in the Penguins system got a chance to play in the Swedish Elite League for 14 games last year. Although he managed only 1 goal in that stretch with Skelleftea he did produce 33 points in 38 games with their junior team. If he could add some muscle to his 6’3” frame he could be a gamer.

Anton Zlobin: I sought out the Hockey’s Future website for a little perspective on Zlobin. They only gave him a D-level of success citing weak strength and weak skating as the flaws. Based on his credentials from last year to this year, it looks like he has added 10 points and scored a fairly elite 91 points in 61 games with Val d’Or of the QMJHL. He’s Russian and he shoots right-handed. I just really hope he pans out.

Jean-Sebastien Dea: Dea went undrafted and won’t be returning to the CHL as he’s now an “overage” player. No idea why he didn’t get drafted but he did manage to score 45 goals and 85 points in total in his final year in the QMJHL. Apparently he participated in Montreal’s development camp last week so there are certainly a few teams interested in his services. His biggest problem seems to be his size: at 6’ 155 lbs. he doesn’t have the size to transition right now. For a team so desperate for forward depth, however, taking a low-dollar flyer on him could pay dividends. You can’t teach scoring.

Goaltending

Eric Hartzell and Tristan Jarry: All eyes will be on these two at Development Camp. When the Penguins signed Hartzell, which trust me was a major coup-he could have gone to another franchise, gotten more money and had an opportunity to compete for an NHL position right away-a Hobey Baker finalist single-handedly responsible for leading Quiunnipiac to a Frozen Four berth, fans and experts were certain the Pens had a possible goaltender of the future. That has all come under scrutiny after the Pens traded up twice in order to draft Jarry. Jarry is a fairly elite prospect who easily could have been the top goalie in this draft class if he had been a full-time starter in juniors this past season.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with either acquisition, the Pens have moved from weakness to strength in a couple of months at the goalie position, but tensions could rise should Hartzell outperform Jarry this week. A couple final thoughts:

  • Hartzell is 24, the oldest player going to Development Camp, Jarry is only 18. That is a big difference in experience and maturity, try to temper your expectations accordingly.

  • It means absolutely nothing but Jarry is going to wear #29 at Camp. Most goalies from Quebec do in honor of Jacques Plante, but that’s going to paint a pretty big bullseye from Fleury apologists.

Jeff Zatkoff: He won’t be at Development Camp but no discussion of goaltending depth is complete without this guy. I for one hope he gets a chance to play a few games at the NHL level this season. He’s been the best goalie in thge AHL two years in a row now and if he can make thed transition he could be a good backup option for 2014-15 if the Pens decide to part ways with a current veteran.

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