The Pittsburgh Penguins rookies and prospects will get their first chance at 5v5 to impress the Penguins brass and put themselves on an NHL trajectory, ahead of their peers and maybe their own expectations one month from now in the Prospects Tournament in Buffalo. Last year, the Penguins top-10 prospects list read like a who’s who of also-rans and overreaches. Hope was high on the list but realism was not. As a result, several names have been bumped off the list and others have been shuffled back in the order this season.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now has had a chance to put eyes on nearly all of the Penguins prospects over the past 12 months. Only Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare, the top two draft picks from the 2019 NHL draft, have not been evaluated against professional or aspiring professional competition at 5v5, yet.
You may notice the removal of one prominent draft pick from our top-10.
Our methodology is a mix of objectivity and subjective projections. There isn’t a set criterium for the list, other than the abilities to make it to the NHL, and the ability to contribute at that level. As a result, Adam Johnson is much lower on our list. He will likely be the first to the NHL, but his long term prognosis in the big league is not as high as first-round pick Sam Poulin or even third-round selection Nathan Legare.
The most notable name we bumped off the list was 2018 second-round pick Filip Hallander. He simply hasn’t yet impressed in international play nor did he show adequate skating in the Development Camp. In the final camp analysis, several players passed him and did so convincingly.
10. Jordy Bellerive, 20, F
His star has taken a hit since the disastrous campfire accident last summer. The Penguins organization noticed he seemed to be a step slow and not close to the same player. Doctors projected he would need months of recovery but he rushed back for the start of the season. He admitted to PHN that he did not feel fully recovered until the end of the season. And yet he had another stellar year in the WHL with 83 points (33g, 50a) in 68 games.
Bellerive is a stocky winger with a chip on his shoulder to prove his undrafted status was a mistake. Bellerive skated well, though not great, in camp. He’s got a pro-quality wrist shot which should improve, too.
As he said during the development camp, “I’m ready to play pro hockey.” Bellerive could stick with the WBS Penguins, though a stint in Wheeling cannot be ruled out, either.
Whether he is an AHL player or able to crack the NHL, is a tough call. Right now, he looks like a career AHL player with leadership qualities. But, those guys get chances in the NHL, too.
9. Emil Larmi, 22, G
The smiling Finnish rookie goalie is coming to North America this season. He was the starting goalie for the Finnish Elite League champions and he was the standout of the prospects camp in late June. Oh, and he raved about America (which was a refreshing change of pace from literally every single cable news channel).
Larmi is not large, but not small. He is 6-foot-1, 183 pounds. He is quick, athletic and will adjust to the smaller North American ice surface this season but he laughed as we asked him about the transition. He’ll be just fine. Then made a point to show PHN the small details in his all-black goalie pads. Not much tape exists on Larmi, but he posted a .909 saver percentage in the regular season and a big-league .932 stopper rate in the Liiga playoffs.
Until we see him in training camp, a true measure is difficult. No. 9 could be far too low for him. With a good camp–which is very possible–he could rocket into the top-five overnight. Count PHN as thus far impressed.
8. Sam Lafferty, 24, F
Lafferty, Samuel? The Hollidaysburg, PA native has been on a steady climb. He was not included in the top-10 list last year but has jumped up the list because of a solid rookie year with the AHL Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Lafferty scored 49 points (13g, 36a) in 70 games. He can be physical and he’s quick. He is 180 pounds and 6-foot-1. The 24-year-old projects as a fourth-line type, perhaps in the same mold as a Garret Wilson, but projections can change.
He has not dominated prospect camps but AHL play is more important. He’s got a shot at the show, and so he is in our top-10.
7. Adam Johnson, 25, RW
The lightning-fast, but also slight forward who was another undrafted free agent signed by the Penguins in 2017, made his NHL debut last March. He didn’t make much of an impact in five minutes per game, and only played in six games, but he’s on the board. He scored his first NHL points, as well. This will be the last year Johnson is on the prospect list as he turned 25 in June.
Johnson has flashed skill, possesses superior speed, but doesn’t always show a Grade A work ethic. He needs to be more consistent and be a little tougher to stick in the NHL.
6. Calen Addison, 19, D
Addison fell to the bottom half of the top-ten list this year after being near the top last season. That’s not entirely on Addison, but a compliment to the Penguins which added real prospects.
Addison possesses some top-notch skating skills for a blueliner and seems to have a knack for running a power play and finding shot lanes. However, his shot is below average. Well below average. Addison has not impressed during the individual skills, including a few fluttering wristers. A comparison may be former Penguins defenseman, Paul Martin.
The Penguins 2018 second-round pick has not been able to distinguish himself during his Team Canada tryouts, as well. He was not invited back for the shortlist last fall and does not appear to be on the shortlist this year either. Addison will likely finish his juniors career this season.
He is only 19-years-old, so there is plenty of time to develop physically and develop the additional layers of his game. If Addison were to stop developing now, he would be a good AHL defenseman. He’ll need to become stronger and continue growing defensively to plant a foot in the NHL.
Tomorrow’s 1-5 prospect list will be part of PHN+. Subscribe today!