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September 17, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Pittsburgh Penguins

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Pittsburgh Penguins Top 10 Prospects

1. Joe Morrow, Defense
2.Brian Dumoulin, Defense
3. Simon Despres, Defense
4. Beau Bennett, Right Wing
5. Olli Maatta, Defense
6. Derrick Pouliot, Defense
7. Scott Harrington, Defense
8. Tom Kuhnhackl, Right Wing
9. Eric Tangradi, Left Wing
10.Roberto Bortuzzo, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 12th

System Overview: Through the last couple of drafts, and acquiring Brian Dumoulin through trade, the Penguins have built up arguably the best group of defense prospects in hockey. They have some forward talent too, but this is certainly a defense-heavy system with a lot of quality.

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1. Joe Morrow, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 12/09/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 206
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 62 GP, 17 G, 64 P (Portland-WHL)
Acquired: First round, 23rd overall in 2011 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Morrow is a simply fantastic offensive talent who can impact the game in several ways. He's a plus skater who can jet through the neutral zone in transition. He's also a great puck-handler and passer with the offensive sense to control the puck well, makes plays in tight spaces, see all his options, and make the difficult plays. Morrow has a big shot from the point as well and plays a bit of an edgy game.

The Bad: His defense isn't bad, but it could still use some work. That area of his game isn't aided by the fact he's physically underdeveloped.

Projection: He could be a below-average top pairing defenseman.

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2. Brian Dumoulin, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th (Carolina)
Date of birth: 09/06/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 225
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 44 GP, 7 G, 28 P (Boston College-Hockey East)
Acquired: Second round, 51st overall in 2009 by Carolina

The Good: Dumoulin had a great season as he was a finalist for college player of the year and won his second straight defensive defenseman of the year award in his conference. He has very impressive offensive tools for a big defenseman, as he's an above-average puck-handler and passer. Dumoulin has good overall instincts in both ends, and sees the ice pretty well.

The Bad: Some scouts say Dumoulin could stand to be more physical, although in viewings he's seemed was ok in that department. His skating is below average, and although he liked to rush plays up in the college level, it's hard to see him doing that in the NHL. He also can try to do too much and makes the odd boneheaded play.

Projection: He could be a good #3 defenseman.

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3. Simon Despres, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 06/27/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 229
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 44 GP, 5 G, 15 P (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 30th overall in 2009 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Despres is a very toolsy defenseman who can flash high-end offensive skill and skating ability, which when you combine with the fact he's 6'4'', makes for a very desirable player. He's got the offensive tools to dazzle, be it putting the defense on their heels with a fast rush, or being able to dangle and quarterback from the blue line. Despres seemed to improve his playmaking to his teammates this past season. He has a solid physical game.

The Bad: Despres defensive game is still a bit of a work in progress. His decision-making, his main issue historically, still isn't great, either, as he can make overly risky plays and needs to learn to pick his spots better.

Projection: He could be a quality top-four defenseman.

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4. Beau Bennett, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 11/27/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 10 GP, 4 G, 13 P (University of Denver-WCHA)
Acquired: First round, 20th overall in 2010 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Bennett is a very talented winger with a lot of upside. He's a high-end puck-handler who can make tremendous displays of skill. He also has good speed, agility, and vision, which gives him several different ways to beat a defense. Bennett is a plus shooter who can snipe goals from mid-distance.

The Bad: Bennett has had injury issues the last two seasons, missing most of this past season, and it should be interesting to see how much that affects him in pro hockey this coming season. He needs to bulk up a fair amount.

Projection: He could be a good second line forward.

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5. Olli Maatta, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 08/22/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 202
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 5 G, 32 P (London-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 22nd overall in 2012 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Maatta is a ridiculously advanced defender who processes the game at an elite level and showed the ability to log huge, tough minutes in his rookie OHL season. He's the kind of player who always makes the right plays, doesn't panic, knows how to play his position in the defensive end, and has the offensive instincts to be a quality passer. Maatta is always finding a way to prevent chances in his own end and generate some the other way despite not being the flashiest when doing so. He's got a fine physical game, too.

The Bad: Maatta is a below-average skater who has an awkward stride and doesn't push off in a prototypical fashion. He's not an overly gifted puck-handler either, as he's roughly average in that area.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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6. Derrick Pouliot, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 01/16/1994
Age: 18
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 72 GP, 11 G, 59 P (Portland-WHL)
Acquired: First round, eighth overall in 2012 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Pouliot is a gifted offensive defenseman. He's an above-average skater with good acceleration and fine overall mobility. He's a great puck-handler and puck-mover who can control the play well, looks calm and poised making plays, makes passes through tight spaces, and can make a lot of difficult plays seem effortless.

The Bad: Pouliot's all-around game needs some work. While he's not bad defensively, he's not good either and I regularly received split reports from scouts on that area of his game. His physical game is a weakness as while he'll play the body, he's a small player who's not that strong.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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7. Scott Harrington, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 01/01/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 44 GP, 3 G, 26 P (London-OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 54th overall in 2011 by Pittsburgh

The Good: A first team OHL all-star this season, Harrington's development took several big jumps forward. He's a high-end thinker who may not be the flashiest or skilled player, but just finds ways every shift to make stops and drives so much value due to his hockey sense. Harrington is always closing his gaps efficiently, knocking puck away from forwards, and doing everything he can to prevent a scoring chance. He's an above-average skater with good four-way mobility.

The Bad: Harrington isn't really a skill player as he can be a bit of a rigid puck-handler and not someone to really create offense. He's a little undersized as well and needs to continue to get stronger.

Projection: He could be an average second pairing defenseman.

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8. Tom Kuhnhackl, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 02/21/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 174
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 32 GP, 6 G, 27 P (Windsor/Niagara-OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 110th overall in 2010 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Kuhnhackl is a pretty skilled player with above-average puck possession ability. He can dangle well in tight spaces, showing good creativity and ability to create space for himself. He's a playmaker who can create chances by himself or setting up his teammates. He's a solid skater with a powerful stride and a fine top gear. Kuhnhackl has a plus shot with good technique.

The Bad: Kuhnhackl struggled this past year after coming back from a lengthy suspension. His physical play was several notches lower from last season and he seemed like a perimeter player on many occasions. His consistency wasn't always there, either. Kuhnhackl has to fill out a lot as well. His goal totals plummeted, although my theory on that was partially due to regression after having a bloated goals to assists ratio the prior season.

Projection: He has top-six upside but is a bit of a work in progress.

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9. Eric Tangradi, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 02/10/1989
Age: 23
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 232
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 15 G, 31 P (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Anaheim, second round, 42nd overall in 2007 by Anaheim

The Good: Tangradi is a plus physical forward who has filled out his frame, has good size, and has all the elements to play a top power game at the pro level. He's a handful to deal with when he turns his back to opponents and he's a good presence in front of the net. Tangradi has above-average hands, showing the ability to create offense, and is not simply a "banger". He could arguably be ready to push for a lower-tier full-time role as soon as next season.

The Bad: Once thought of as a potential NHL scorer, Tangradi hasn't shown the ability to consistently be an offensive force as he doesn't show that level of offensive instincts. His skating isn't all that great and it seems like he'll have to make a living in the NHL with below-average speed.

Projection: He could be a bottom-six winger.

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10. Robert Bortuzzo, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 03/18/1989
Age: 23
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 51 GP, 3 G, 12 P (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 78th overall in 2007 by Pittsburgh

The Good: Bortuzzo is a quality defensive defenseman with a high-end physical game and good defensive awareness. He takes a lot of defensive zone starts and is a good penalty killer. Bortuzzo is a big, strong player who likes to lay out big hits and can be a handful for forwards to deal with. In his own end, Bortuzzo is always making plays by breaking up passes, separating players from pucks, and being in the right position.

The Bad: Bortuzzo really isn't dangerous offensively as he's a below-average puck-handler and skater who will have a clear, limited role in the NHL. Bortuzzo also missed a few games due to a concussion.

Projection: He could be a good third pairing defenseman.

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The Next Five

11. Scott Wilson, Left Wing: Wilson scored a point per game as a freshman, showing great hands, vision and good on-ice work ethic.

12. Matia Marcantuoni, Center: He came into the season as a potential top 15 pick, but a concussion injury and underwhelming performance derailed his stock. He's a fantastic skater with skill.

13. Nicholas D'Agostino, Defense: D'Agostino is a skilled puck-mover who moves well and has a big shot. He still has a ways to go development-wise, but has a fair amount of tools to work with.

14. Brian Strait, Defense: Strait is a smart defensive player who is good but not great at any one thing with not much upside.

15. Philip Samuelsson, Defense: Samuelsson struggled a bit in his first pro season, but was really impressive at the end. He has very good hockey sense and finds ways to contribute despite not being that skilled.

The Sleeper: Anton Zlobin, Right Wing

Zlobin is not your traditional sleeper, as his Memorial Cup-winning goal made him better known. He still has the skill and potential to have a huge 19-year-old season in the QMJHL and World Juniors and fly up the Penguins depth chart.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Joe Morrow, Defense
2.Brian Dumoulin, Defense
3. Simon Despres, Defense
4. Beau Bennett, Right Wing
5. Olli Maatta, Defense
6. Derrick Pouliot, Defense
7. Scott Harrington, Defense
8. Tom Kuhnhackl, Right Wing
9. Eric Tangradi, Left Wing
10.Roberto Bortuzzo, Defense

Pittsburgh had no regulars last season that were within the age or games played thresholds set. Brandon Sutter also does not fit the criteria.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects (09/18)

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