Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
A look back into the past for the Pens’ best young players from a few years ago
Since we’re going to hold off on putting together the 2020 edition of the Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 list until after the draft in early October, what better #content for you on a Sunday then to look back at the past?
Last summer we took a look back at the 2015 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 list to see how players made moves from being young players into being bigger deals, or maybe not. So let’s move that ahead a year and check out how the 2016 list is looking right now.
#25: Joe Masonius, defenseman, 2016 sixth round pick Pittsburgh
—Masonius, now 23, never played a professional game in the Pens’ organization. He split time in the ECHL between Norfolk and Greenville and is on the fringes of pro hockey.
#24: Niclas Almari, defenseman, 2016 fifth round pick Pittsburgh
—Almari, 22. came over from Finland to play his first full pro season in North America in 2019-20. He played 51 games in Wilkes-Barre scoring 1 goal and adding 6 assists in 51 games. He’s fairly decent at everything from skating, to defending, to moving the puck but hasn’t really excelled at anything to date.
#23: Ryan Jones, defenseman, 2016 fourth round pick Pittsburgh
—Jones finished up a fairly unremarkable career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2019-20. The Penguins elected not to sign him and he is a professional free agent. Pittsburgh pivoted to sign undrafted NCAA defensemen like Josh Maniscalco and Cam Lee this off-season instead of Jones.
#22: Connor Hall, defenseman, 2016 third round pick Pittsburgh
—Fittingly and unfortunately enough, the Pens’ got this pick for trading away injury-prone Beau Bennett. Accordingly, Hall’s pro career was over before it began by 2018 due to recurring shoulder injuries.
#21: Josh Archibald, forward, 2011 sixth round pick Pittsburgh
—Archibald only played 14 total games with NHL Pittsburgh (and 188 more for AHL Wilkes-Barre) from 2014-17 before a trade sent him + a 6th round pick to Arizona for minor league goalie Michael Leighton + a 4th round pick. Archibald hasn’t seen the AHL since, finishing the next 1.5 seasons in Arizona before signing as a free agent with Edmonton for 2019-20. That went pretty well (12G+9A in 62 games) so the Oilers extended him for two years at $1.5 million a pop through 2021-22. Not really sure that’s smart for the team, but good for him! A hard working forward with a bit of finishing ability that has found a way to carve out an NHL niche.
#20: Kaspar Bjorkqvist, forward, 2016 second round pick Pittsburgh
—Bjorkqvist tore his ACL just six games into his North American pro career last October and missed the rest of 2019-20. He’s been loaned to a Finnish team for 2020-21 for his age-23 season and his prospects of making it to the NHL have diminished as time has gone by. Bjorkqvist is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2020-21 season, so we’ll see if the Pens keep him around. Feels like he’s slipping away quietly.
#19: Anthony Angello, forward, 2014 fourth round pick Pittsburgh
—Made his NHL debut in 2019-20 probably mostly due to the glut of injuries, playing eight games (scoring 1G+0A),
#18: Jean-Sebastien Dea, forward, undrafted free agent
—Ultimately only played 8 total games for the NHL Penguins (doesn’t it feel like more?) over three seasons before bouncing around a bit. Spent most of 2019-20 with AHL Rochester in Buffalo’s organization, with three games in the NHL with the Sabres.
#17: Teddy Blueger, center, 2012 second round draft pick
—Blueger spent his first full season in the NHL in 2019-20, being a key penalty killer and defensive center for the Pens, scoring 9G+13A along the way in 69 games and is one of the few on the list who blossomed into being a full-time NHL player for Pittsburgh.
#16: Dominik Simon, forward, 2015 fifth round pick Pittsburgh
—Simon has developed into a good NHL forward who can’t score and now has a major shoulder surgery to recover from.
#15: Ethan Prow, defenseman, undrafted
—Prow, now 27, hit a ceiling at the AHL level. He had a great year for AHL Wilkes-Barre in 2018-19 (50 points in 74 games) but became a free agent and left the Pens without much fanfare. He signed with Florida’s organization, spending all of 2019-20 with AHL Springfield scoring 32 points in 42 games.
#14: Tristan Jarry, goalie, 2013 second round pick Pittsburgh
—After miring in the minors for a while, waivers required the Pens to keep Jarry in the NHL for 2019-20 full-time and he more than made the most of the opportunity in becoming an injury replacement for the NHL All-Star team in 2020 and the presumed starting goalie moving forward.
#13: Tom Kuhnhackl, forward, 2010 fourth round pick Pittsburgh
#12: Oskar Sundqvist, forward, 2012 third round pick Pittsburgh
#11: Lukas Bengtsson, defenseman, undrafted
—Bengtsson signed with the Pens in summer 2016 and was ranked high here with the hopes his skill would carry over. Due to injuries it didn’t, he only played 53 total games in two seasons from 2016-18 with AHL Wilkes-Barre and returned to Europe. Bengtsson currently plays for St. Petersburg in the KHL.
#10: Filip Gustavsson, goalie, 2016 second round pick Pittsburgh
—An elite goalie prospect that hasn’t really panned out, Gustavsson, still just 22, finished his third season in Ottawa’s organization after the 2018 Derrick Brassard trade sent him out of Pittsburgh. Gustavsson only had a .889 save% in 24 games with AHL Belleville in 2019-20 (lowest of the three regular goalies on that team) and has yet to make his NHL debut. His star has fallen a bit from his projections.
#9: Scott Wilson, forward, 2011 seventh round pick Pittsburgh
—Like Dea, Wilson was brought into the Buffalo organization by Jason Botterill for 2019-20, spending most of his time with AHL Rochester. He did play six games with NHL Buffalo (1G+1A) but now at 28 looks on the wrong side of being a fringe NHLer.
#8: Jake Guentzel, forward, 2013 third round pick Pittsburgh
—At this point of the rankings in 2016, Guentzel made his mark scoring 14 points in 10 AHL playoff games in 2016. He would, of course, continue to skyrocket, leading the NHL in playoff goals just a season later and then scoring 40 goals in two years later, paving his way to superstardom.
#7: Bryan Rust, forward, 2010 third round pick Pittsburgh
—Likewise, Rust continued his ascent into being a point-per-game player by 2019-20 with the Pens and developing his scoring touch at the NHL level.
#6: Conor Sheary, forward, undrafted
—A strange journey since 2016 for Sheary, who scored 53 points in 61 games in 2016-17 and playing a top role in helping the Pens to win a Cup. Then he was traded to Buffalo with Matt Hunwick for cap relief, only to find his way back to Pittsburgh via another trade when the Pens thought Guentzel would be out for the playoffs. Sheary hits free agency again this fall, likely to move on.
#5: Derrick Pouliot, defenseman, 2012 first round pick Pittsburgh
—At the time of this ranking Pouliot was floundering and would only play 11 more games for Pittsburgh before being traded to Vancouver for a fourth round pick in 2017. He spent two unremarkable seasons with the Canucks before signing as a free agent with St. Louis, spending most of 2019-20 with AHL San Antonio and getting just two games in the NHL in 2019-20 due to injuries. At 26 it looks like his NHL days are behind him.
#4: Daniel Sprong, forward, 2015 round pick Pittsburgh
—Sprong would only play 24 more games for Pittsburgh after this ranking, scoring just 2 goals before being traded for Marcus Pettersson. Sprong didn’t impress in Anaheim, getting waived and spending time in the AHL before being traded to Washington. The Caps figure to give Sprong, 23, a shot at the NHL next year, but he still hasn’t found a coach or organization that can maximize his strengths compared to his weaknesses that bleed through.
#3: Brian Dumoulin, defenseman, 2012 second round pick Carolina
—Dumoulin has developed into a surefire, steady first pair defender for the Penguins and is under contract for three more seasons at $4.1 million per year.
#2: Olli Maatta, defenseman, 2012 first round pick Pittsburgh
#1: Matt Murray, goalie, 2012 third round pick Pittsburgh
—It appears Murray’s time in Pittsburgh has come to an end with the conclusion of his latest contract. He started off like a lion steering the Pens to Cup wins in 2016 and 2017 but finished like a lamb with a poor 2019-20 season and unremarkable playoff results in his latter years.