The 2019 Prospects Challenge has wrapped up and the Pittsburgh Penguins went 2-1 over the weekend. A tough loss to the Boston Bruins in the dying seconds denied them the opportunity to go 3-0 but it was a productive weekend for the team’s prospects in Buffalo, which resulted in the Penguins winning the tournament. With that, let’s take a look at who stood out over the weekend.
Defensemen Pierre-Oliver Joseph and John Marino
Newly acquired defensemen Pierre-Oliver Joseph and John Marino were paired together for the first two games and they did not disappoint. Marino was particularly eye-popping with his ability to escape dangerous situations with his elusiveness. Something the Penguins struggled with in the playoffs was finding an outlet pass from their own zone when under pressure. Marino often was able to find that key pass to get out of the zone while under pressure from a Bruin. Recently hired Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WB/S) Penguins head coach Mike Vellucci really liked what he saw from this specific pairing.
“I think both are going to be outstanding NHL defensemen,” he said. “They just need a little bit of maturity and development. They’re both big guys, have great sticks. Both of those guys together, I thought they played really well.”– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Mike Vellucci
Joseph was very slick on the ice. His skating has been a strength of his and it showed this weekend. His puck handling was on display and multiple times he got himself out of trouble with a smooth stick handle. Joseph and Marino showed a lot of promise and proved why the Penguins traded for them. Both looked like they could succeed at the NHL level after the 2019-20 season. WB/S will be a great spot for them and give them plenty of opportunities to develop chemistry with each other.
Center Sam Lafferty
It didn’t matter how the Prospects Challenge went for Sam Lafferty, this weekend was a win when he was named captain for the Penguins. Lafferty was a smart choice to wear the “C,” as he is entering his second season as a pro.
Lafferty did have a strong showing this weekend. Starting on the top line, his speed was evident early and he seemed to work well next to Samuel Poulin and Anthony Angello. Lafferty set up players consistently and although he didn’t fill up the box score like some expected, he anchored the top line and is primed for a strong 2019-20 season in the AHL. An injury-required call-up is not out of the question either.
Forwards Samuel Poulin and Nathan Legare
Poulin and Legare, the top picks for the Penguins in the 2019 NHL Draft, looked good as well. Poulin was effective all weekend and earned time on the point for the power play. He was always looking for the puck, whether on offense or defense. He showed off some nice puck skills and was particularly efficient on the power play. Quite a few times he had some razor-sharp passes that set up opportunities for teammates to shoot. His heavy slap shot was a welcome sight for the Penguins. Poulin looked quite good this weekend and will be a force to be reckoned with in the QMJHL.
Legare was also effective this weekend, highlighted by the game-winning goal against the Sabres. He had a game-tying goal against the Bruins just seconds after they took a 3-2 lead. He had a knack for getting in the right positions and made the most of them, but needs more time to develop and consistent play in the QMJHL at the junior level will go a long way for him.
Forward Anthony Angello
In a game where the Penguins prospects were outplayed, Angello came to the rescue in Saturday’s win over the New Jersey Devils. Late in the first period when the Penguins were on their heels, Angello got the puck, sped past the Devils’ defense and bull-rushed the goalie, registering the first shot on target for the game. Even though he didn’t score, this proved to be a turning point in the game. He eventually scored the game-winning goal on the power play, which was well deserved as he had been peppering the goaltender all game. He has a big frame and was not afraid to show it this weekend. Angello is hoping to make some noise in training camp to make a push for the NHL, but all signs point to him starting in the AHL with WB/S.
More Thoughts from the Prospects Challenge
- Calen Addison delivered as advertised. Even though it was an up and down weekend, his vision, acceleration and playmaking were evident. He tallied a nice lone assist on the first goal against the Bruins.
- Goaltenders Alex D’Orio and Emil Larmiboth had strong weekends. D’Orio was particularly impressive against the Devils, especially during an extended 5-on-3 power play. Larmi had 32 saves in the win against the Sabres.
- Jordy Bellerive was in the mix all weekend. He seemed to step up his game and improve as the tournament continued. He had a goal and assist in the final game against the Sabres and had quite a few big hits.
What’s Next for the Penguins?
With the Prospects Challenge in the books, the Penguins will start training camp on Friday, Sept. 13. The Penguins will invite 54 players to camp and preparations for the 2019-20 season will be underway. With the prospects fresh off the Prospects Challenge, it will be interesting to see which guys will stand out when the NHL players get up to speed.
Josh Karadeema is a professional sports videographer who currently works for the Tennessee Titans filming practices and games for coaches and player review. Josh also is a contributing writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he has watched since 2003, covering a variety of topics. Josh is a native of Jacksonville, FL and currently resides in Nashville, TN.