The Penguins brass has accumulated a nice list of young prospects over the past year and half. With three picks in the 1st round and four in the top 40 this year, the Pens should bolster their list even more in the off season.


The Top 20


Jeff Skinner (C/W) – Carolina Hurricanes (NHL): 72GP - 25G - 27A - 52P

Skinny has demonstrated skill beyond his years, which is the reason why he is in the running for the Calder Trophy. His most impressive attribute is his resiliency and determination to become a better player. He is a coach’s dream and gives his all every shift regardless of where the play is occurring. Jeff needs to get a little stronger in order to reach his full potential. Skinny was selected to the All-Star game to replace injured forward Evgeni Malkin. He is the youngest player ever to participate in ANY major league All-Star game.

Projection: Potential Top Line Talent

Tyler Toffoli (RW) – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): 68GP – 57 - 51A - 108P

Ty got off to a slow start last year, which may have been one of the determining factors as to why he slipped into the 2nd round. Toffoli has exploded this year and has been one of the most dominant players in the O. He is a pure offensive player that wants the puck on his stick at all times. He has improved his skating this year and is something that can continue to improve through on and off ice training. LA fans like to consider him the next “Lucky Luc”. In his last game of the season, Toffoli scored a hattrick in 3 minutes and 48 seconds. He later added another goal and assist to tie for the league lead in points and take the outright lead in goals.

Projection: Potential Top Six Sniper

Mats Zuccarrello (W) – New York Rangers (NHL): 38GP – 6G – 16A – 22P

The Hobbit got his first taste of NHL action when the injury bug rattled the Rangers earlier this season. The fact that Zuccs is still playing in the NHL with New York healthy is a testament of his excellent two-way play. Despite his “Mighty Mouse” type stature, Mats plays a much bigger game and is not afraid to battle it out in the dirty areas. He possesses nice playmaking abilities and is ferocious on the back check.  Frodo’s next step is to get strong and work on his shot.

Projection: Excellent Two-way Third Liner with Top Six Potential

Ryan Spooner (C/LW) – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): 64GP – 35G – 46A – 81P

Spooner was a last minute cut from the Bruins after a strong showing in camp. After demanding a trade from the Petes, Spooner landed in Kingston and has not missed a beat (1.24 PPG). Ryan’s skill is not in question here, as he possesses silky hands and great wheels. He does however need to fill out his frame in order to make it to the next level – something that should not be a problem.

Projection: Potential Top Six Forward

Martin Jones (G) – Manchester Monarchs (AHL): 37GP – 2.29GAA – 0.923Pct – 4SO

After starting the year in the ECHL, Jonesey has now stolen the top tender position for the Manchester Monarchs from Jeff Zatkoff.  Martin has been one of the hottest tenders in the A the last half and has proven that he can play in the AHL. Unfortunately, he is still behind Quick and Bernier on the Kings depth chart.  At some point in the near future I would expect Lombardi to move a tender to strengthen the team elsewhere. All goalies involved would benefit from a move.  

Projection: Solid Backup with Starter Potential  

Justin Shugg (LW) – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL): 65GP – 41G – 46A – 87P

Shugg had an excellent 2010/2011 campaign with Mississauga and finished with a team high in points, goals and assists. The Majors lead the league in points thanks in large part to Shugg’s never say die attitude. Justin is a winner and will do whatever it takes to make sure his team succeeds.  He was disappointed by his draft position (4th round – Carolina Hurricanes) as many felt that his 2009/2010 performance with the Spitfires was thanks to playing with talented teammates (Taylor Hall, Zach Kassian, Ryan Ellis, etc.).  Now, with a chip on his shoulder, Shugg proved the naysayers wrong this year.

Projection: Strong Third Liner Winger with Top Six Potential

Alex Petrovic (D) – Red Deer Rebels (WHL): 69GP – 7G – 50A – 57P

The Rebels relied heavily on Petrovic to shutdown opposing teams top players this year and he did not disappoint. Along with his stellar defensively play, Petro chipped in for another 30 points and 50+ penalties minutes. Alex is a fearless rearguard who refuses to back down from a fight. His offensive game has excelled thanks in large part to his improved skating ability. Petro may need another year or two to develop, but he should form a dynamic duo with Erik Gudbranson in the near future.

Projection: Solid Top Four Shutdown Defender

Philip Larsen (D) – Texas Stars (AHL): 47GP – 2G – 16A – 18P

Larsen is an all around defender that does just about everything right. He was blessed with excellent skating and has a knack for reading the play well. He had a brief stint in the pros playing 6 games while add 2 assists with the Dallas Stars. Philip needs to continue to get stronger and progress in all three zones if he expects to become an effective NHL player. He could be used in a bottom pair role as early as next year and should see powerplay time.

Projection: Excellent Bottom Pair Two-Way Defender with Top Four Potential

Linus Klasen (LW) – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 47GP – 22G – 23A – 45P

Klasen was selected to the AHL All-Star game in his rookie season and rightfully so. The dangler did not look out of place scoring a highlight spinorama goal doing the breakaway relay. His first year transitioning to the North American ice surface was smoother than expected as his lead the Admirals in points despite missing time due to injury. At 5’9, 180lbs, Linus needs to continue to get stronger in order to make it in Nashville. If it were based on skill alone he would already be in the show.

Projection: Second Line Sniper

Tyler Johnson (C) – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): 70GP – 52G – 61A – 113P

Tyler Johnson is perhaps best known for helping his country win a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan. Having gone undrafted in his draft year, Johnson earned a contract from the Tampa Lightning by dominating the WHL.  Tyler led the league in goals with 53 and notched an unprecedented 115 points in 71 games, good enough for 2nd place. Scouts who have watched him say that he has very few flaws in his game but his lack of size (5’9, 175lbs) makes him a risk.

Projection: Second Line Offensive Forward

Brendan Ranford (LW) – Kamploops Blazers (WHL): 68GP – 33G – 53A – 86P

Ranford possesses average size (5’10, 182 lbs) but is a gritty forward in the mold of a Cal Clutterbuck. Brendan needs to continue working on his foot speed as he has proven the hands are clearly there.

Projection: Solid Bottom Six Two-way Agitator

Jason Zucker (LW) – U. of Denver (WCHA): 38GP – 21G – 20A – 41P

Zucks has been one of the most dominant college rookies all season long. He is most known for the cheap shot he received from Slovakian defender Martin Marincin at the 2011 WJC.  Zucker has been lights out since then and is looking as though he could be a steal.

Projection: Second Line Sniper

Sebastian Wannstrom (RW) – Team Sweden (WJC): 6GP – 1G – 5A – 6P

Wannstrom was one of the few Swedes that showed up at the 2011 WJC.  He has had difficulty earning ice time and is playing for a strong team in the SEL. The Blues shocked many in the hockey world selecting him the 2nd round last year. They love his raw upside and is a project power forward.

Projection: Bottom Six Winger with Top Six Upside

Matt Hackett (G) – Houston Aeros (AHL): 37GP – 2.20GAA – 0.920Pct – 2SO

Hackett had a decent AHL season after starting the year off slow. He managed to split starts with Anton Kudobin and even outperformed him on the year. With the injury to Josh Harding, he could have a shot for the Wild’s backup spot next season.

Projection: Solid Backup Tender

Shawn Lalonde (D) – Rockford IceHogs (AHL): 61GP – 5G – 24A – 29P

Lalonde had a decent rookie campaign with the IceHogs this year finishing 2nd in team points as a defender.  Shawn possesses excellent offensive instincts but will need to continue to polish his defensive game.

Projection: Excellent Bottom Pair Offensive Defender with Top Four Potential

Brandon Kozun (RW) – Manchester Monarchs (AHL): 65GP – 21G – 23A – 44P

Kozun was very inconsistent in his rookie year with Monarchs despite his decent numbers. He has amazing offensive potential but is very raw in pretty much every other facet of the game. He will need time to develop if he ever does at all.

Projection: Top Six Potential/Career Minor Leaguer

Luca Caputi (W) – Toronto Marlies (AHL): 13GP – 1G – 4A – 5P

Luca was held pointless in 7 games with the Leafs this year before being sent down to the Marlies. Things only got worse after that when he went down with a sports hernia. Still, Caputi has the size and tenacity to eventually merit some NHL playing time.

Projection: Bottom Six Agitator.

Tyler Bunz (G) - Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): 56GP – 2.47GAA – 0.919Pct – 3SO

Despite being one of the best tenders in the WHL this year, Tyler Bunz is very much a raw and unpolished prospect. With a vast amount of prospect and proven depth ahead of him in Edmonton, it could take a year or two before Bunz is considered for professional playing time.

Projection: Backup Tender

Dalton Smith (LW) – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): 63GP – 12G – 16A – 28P - 122 PIMS

Smith was taken early in the 2nd round last year by the Columbus Blue Jackets and to some surprise. His offensive production this year was tossed aside in favor of some good ol’ rock’em sock’em play.

Projection: Fourth Line Enforcer

Mike Testwuide (RW) – Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): 63GP – 12G – 18A – 30P

It took a good 20 games for Mike to get adjusted to the pros. Yes Mikey, players skate much faster in the AHL then they do in College. Scouts like his size and knack for going hard to the paint.

Projection: Bottom Six Power Forward

Honorable Mention:

Josh Shalla
Lee Baldwin
James Marcou