As Penguin fans, we’re used to playing hockey deep into May/June, so admittedly, it’s hard to think about other sports. In conjunction with that, I present to you the Penguins top 5 prospects.
1. Eric Tangradi
This one is a no-doubter. He was the integral cog in the Anaheim-Pittsburgh trade in 2009 that sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim in exchange for Chris Kunitz and Tangradi. He projects to be the perfect winger for either Malkin or Crosby, as he provides great hands and a big body in front of the net that the Pens haven’t had since the departure of Ryan Malone. Depending on how the off-season shakes out, we could be seeing a lot of Tangradi next year, and I assure you that is a good thing.
2. Simon Despres
Given the lack of defensemen under contract for next year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could see Despres next year. The Penguins first-round pick last year, Despres hung around training camp far longer than expected, and had a sensational year at Saint John’s of the Quebec league. A 6 foot 4, 200 pound defenseman, Despres has remarkable puck movement skills. Despres could potentially take over Gonchar/Letang’s spot on the power play, and can also kill penalties, drawing rave reviews as an excellent shot blocker. Despres could be a regular sooner than most think.
3. Carl Sneep
Another defenseman flying up the Penguins system is Carl Sneep. Sneep is of a similar mold to Despres in size, and both play a strong two-way game. Sneep currently lacks the offensive prowess of Despres (though he’s showing improvement), but is currently a more consistent defensive player. Sneep has a tendency to play with an edge, and the organization loves his work ethic on and off the ice. Projects to be a potential shut-down defenseman.
4. Dustin Jeffrey
Hard not to put the leading scorer at Wilkes-Barre Scranton in 2009-10 on this list. He probably projects to be a third-line center, but could potentially move to wing one day. He’s one of those types of players where their greatest skill is simply finding the puck and making a play. He won’t dazzle you with moves, he simply finds his way around the net.
5. Philip Samuelsson
I just know that his dad, former Penguin Ulf Samuelsson, would find me and slaughter me if I didn’t put him on this list. Philip is a far more talented offensive player than his father was, and like the other two defenseman on this list, shows maturity beyond his age. Samuelsson has the most work to do of any of these prospects, but could see ice time in 2012. He knows his own game very well, has great positioning and is also a fine puck mover. Could be a real talent.
After writing this, I just can’t wait until next season. Four months.