Penguins 2019-20 Top-10 Prospects

When a team has two of the best players in the world and makes the postseason for 13 consecutive seasons, they usually aren’t too concerned with the future of the franchise. That’s where the Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit. The Penguins have spent the last decade selling picks and prospects to bolster their roster for postseason runs. It’s paid off in the form of three Stanley Cups during the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin era, but it’s left the prospect pool in shambles.

The prospects in the #6-10 group range from potential middle-six NHL contributors to fringe depth skaters. It also features the only netminder, Emil Larmi, to appear in the Penguins’ top-15 prospects. With a few injuries to Pittsburgh’s forwards, some of these skaters could see a stint in the NHL this season.

Related: Penguins Top-15 Prospects: #11-15

As for the top-five, three were acquired this offseason, including two during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. All five of these skaters should become impactful NHL pieces down the road, though most won’t be ready to make that leap this season.

10. Forward Sam Miletic

At 21 years old, Sam Miletic netted 12 goals and 35 points in 49 contests as a rookie with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, finishing seventh on the team in scoring. This came directly after racking up 36 goals and 92 points with London and Niagara of the OHL during the 2017-18 campaign. Pittsburgh currently has plenty of options on the wing at the NHL level, so Miletic will spend next season in the AHL again.

Sam Miletic, London Knights, OHL
Can Sam Miletic get the call to the NHL this season? (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Michigan native has some strong offensive awareness and a pretty well-rounded game that should allow him to be a fringe bottom-six NHL skater at some point. His skating is average but he seemed to improve at the AHL level which will go a long way in getting him to the top level. Miletic also still has some work to do in the defensive end if he wants that bottom-six spot in the next few years.

9. Forward Sam Lafferty

Sam Lafferty was a fourth-round pick in 2014 before spending four years with Brown University. The Pennsylvania native was better than anticipated in his first full AHL campaign, finishing second on the team in scoring after racking up 13 goals and 49 points last season. The offensive outburst seemingly came out of nowhere after he scored 57 points combined during his junior and senior seasons at Brown.

Lafferty’s biggest knock is his average skating speed that sometimes prevents him from really creating offense. However, he makes up for it with strong hockey sense that allows him to set up his teammates often in the offensive zone. The 24-year-old won’t be a showstopper in the NHL, but he’ll be on the shortlist of call-up candidates in case of injury this season.

8. Goaltender Emil Larmi

The only goaltending prospect in the system to crack the top-15, Larmi signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Penguins back in June after a successful tenure in the Finnish Elite League. Last season, the 6-foot-tall netminder recorded a 1.94 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. He then went on a wild hot streak in the postseason, leading HPK to a championship with a stifling .930 save percentage and 1.72 GAA.

Larmi was one of the more intriguing prospects to participate in the Penguins’ development camp this summer. While Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith should handle most of the goaltending duties at the NHL level, there’s very little goalie depth in the organization after AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton starter Tristan Jarry. The 22-year-old Finn will enter next season as Jarry’s backup but his quick glove could earn him a nice chunk of the playing time.

7. Forward Justin Almeida

Justin Almeida could be the most intriguing prospect of this group. A fifth-round selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the 20-year-old has lit up the WHL the past two seasons, combining for 76 goals and 209 points in 136 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He finished third among all WHL skaters with his 111-point performance during the 2018-19 season and second with 45 power-play points.

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There’s no doubt that Almeida has the offensive skill set to reach the highest level. WHL success doesn’t always translate but his well-rounded offensive game and silky-smooth finish should do just fine. For now, the 5-foot-11, 160-pound forward needs to work on getting stronger and faster. The pure offensive talent will continue to grow as his frame develops.

6. Forward Jordy Bellerive

Another lethal offensive threat, Jordy Bellerive has been one of the best Penguins’ prospects since signing an entry-level deal in 2017 after going undrafted. Like Almeida, Bellerive dominated his WHL competition over the last two seasons, combining for 79 goals and 175 points with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Impressively, he scored 83 points last year after an offseason incident where he was injured in a fire.

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Bellerive skates well and is just as effective without the puck as he is with it. The 20-year-old can finish and pass at a high level which helps him create his own offense and drive a forward line. He’ll likely get a full run with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2019-20 after getting a taste last season in three games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bellerive fighting for an NHL roster spot in training camp next year.

5. Defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph

Acquired from the Arizona Coyotes as part of the Phil Kessel trade this offseason, Pierre-Olivier Joseph gives the Penguins some much-needed organizational depth on the blue line. He fits the prospect type that Pittsburgh has often sought after: an athletic, puck-moving defenseman. Joseph was drafted 23rd overall in 2017 and is the younger brother of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph.

Pierre-Olivier Joseph
Pierre-Olivier Joseph should bolster Pittsburgh’s blue line in the near future (Darrell Theriault / courtesy Charlottetown Islanders)

The 6-foot-2 defenseman projects as a mobile, two-way blueliner, though his offensive game is still under construction. He tallied 13 goals and 46 points during his 2017-18 campaign and followed that up with nine goals and 47 points last season to close out his QMJHL career. Joseph has the skills to impress at the AHL level, but at just 161 pounds, his frame needs to fill out a bit before reaching the NHL.

4. Forward Filip Hallander

The Penguins saw something they liked quite a bit in Filip Hallander, trading back into the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to sweep him up. After years as a junior hockey standout in his home country, the 6-foot-1 forward reached Sweden’s top professional league last season. At just 18 years old, he notched seven goals and 21 points and was later the league’s second-leading scorer during relegation with another eight points.

Hallander is a very smart offensive threat that thrives around the front of the net. Like many other Penguins prospects, his skating is a bit underwhelming but his hockey IQ picks up some slack. The 19-year-old will stay in the SHL for the 2019-20 season as he’s still at least a year or two away from being NHL-ready.

3. Forward Nathan Legare

Few prospects did more to boost their draft stock than Nathan Legare did last season. After scoring just 10 goals and 29 points with QMJHL Baie-Comeau two seasons ago. the 18-year-old notched 45 goals and 87 points during the 2018-19 campaign. He tied for the second-most goals in the QMJHL last season led by a lethal shot and terrific offensive awareness.

Legare also tallied 14 goals and 30 points on the power play, making him one of the best man-advantage specialists in this draft class. Many scouts considered him a steal when the Penguins scooped him up with the 74th-overall pick. His draft stock took a bit of a hit due to concerns over his skating, but his well-developed, 6-foot, 205-pound frame, high motor, and strong hands should make up for it.

2. Forward Samuel Poulin

Few Penguins prospects in recent memory have come with higher expectations than Samuel Poulin. After the team went four straight seasons without a first-round pick, the 6-foot-1 winger was taken 21st overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He made a name for himself with a combination of size, skill, and a strong hockey IQ. Poulin scored 29 goals and 76 points with QMJHL Sherbrooke last season before adding another 14 points in 10 postseason contests.

Samuel Poulin Penguins Draft
Samuel Poulin, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Weighing in at a touch over 200 pounds, Poulin already looks physically ready to hang with the big boys. However, without an elite first skating stride, he won’t survive in the NHL strictly off his size. The 18-year-old winger will need to improve his skating but he already possesses smooth, strong hands. Poulin should get some work in the AHL this season to fix that skating and, possibly as soon as the 2020-21 season, could become a middle-six NHL winger.

1. Defenseman Calen Addison

Finally, another very mobile, puck-moving blueliner, Calen Addison rounds out the Penguins’ top prospect list. Like Hallander, he was a second-round pick in 2018. He’s slightly undersized at just 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but his speed and skill put him a step ahead of the competition. Addison scored exactly 11 goals and 65 points in each of his last two seasons with WHL Lethbridge with fellow Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive.

Calen Addison
Will Calen Addison be the next star blueliner for Pittsburgh? (courtesy Lethbridge Hurricanes)

Addison got a quick taste of AHL action with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, grabbing two assists in three games played. Pittsburgh hopes that he’ll one day quarterback the top power-play unit and his skill set should allow him to do so. Of his 130 WHL points in the last two seasons, 71 have come during the man advantage. The 19-year-old should spend this season at the AHL level and could enter training camp in 2020 with a shot at cracking the NHL roster.