The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to get past the New York Islanders in the playoffs and have not had much luck since losing Marc-Andre Fleury in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft. Unfortunately, the Penguins do not have a well-stocked farm system. The Penguins farm system is arguably one of the worst in the NHL, but there are a few prospects in their system who could bring some firepower down the road.
1. Jordy Bellerive, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
HT/WT: 5-11/194 lbs
Even though Bellerive was never drafted, he is still a remarkable talent and has been one of the top producers for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Last season, he appeared in 68 games and tallied 83 points (33 goals and 50 assists). His numbers were slightly lower than his 2017-18 campaign, but still impressive nonetheless. There is a good chance that Bellerive will be in the AHL full-time next year and will suit up for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
In terms of Bellerive’s playing style, he has tremendous fantasy upside as he is extremely productive in the offensive zone. When Bellerive has the puck on his stick, he is constantly a threat. With his wicked powerful wrist shot, he can pinpoint exactly where he wants the puck to go and he will deliver each and every time. In addition, he has solid speed and is a great playmaker. There is a lot to like about Bellerive.
2. Pierre-Olivier Joseph, LHD, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL), Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
HT/WT: 6-2/161 lbs
Drafted: 23rd overall in the 2017 draft by the Arizona Coyotes
Pierre-Olivier Joseph was one of the pieces that the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired in the Phil Kessel trade. Joseph is an extremely thin and tall left-handed defenseman. He has shut down instincts and brings a lot of physicality, but he is also quite productive in the offensive zone. His play is very much comparable to the play of former Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Last season, Joseph split his time between the Charlottetown Islanders and the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. In a combined 62 games, Joseph produced nine goals and 38 assists. In addition, he played in 16 playoff games for the Voltigeurs and mustered up nine points (two goals and seven assists). Joseph will more than likely play in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. If next season goes well for the Laval, Quebec native, we could see Joseph in the NHL full-time in 2020-21.
3. Calen Addison, RHD, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
HT/WT: 5-10/181 lbs
Drafted: 53rd overall in the 2018 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins love grabbing players from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Jordy Bellerive has been a steal and Calen Addison looks like one as well. Addison is coming off of a 65 point season (11 goals and 54 assists) and managed to tack on nine more points in the playoffs. Down the road, Addison could be seen as an option to replace Kris Letang, when his career is all said and down.
Addison looks like the next great power-play quarterback in Pittsburgh. His puck distribution and passing is superb. In addition, his edge work is flawless. Addison will often utilize his edges in the offensive zone to circle around the zone until he finds an open slot. Also, he is equipped with a powerful shot. There are a lot of great qualities in Addison’s game.
4. Justin Almeida, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
HT/WT: 5-11/165 lbs
Drafted: 129th overall in the 2018 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
Almeida is coming off shoulder surgery and was absent at rookie camp. The 20-year-old just needed some more time to heal before he jumped back onto the ice.
Last season, Almeida had a stellar over-ager season as he tallied 33 goals and 78 assists in 64 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors. His point totals were third-best in the WHL. Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Sharks prospect) and Tristan Langan had slightly higher point totals.
In terms of Almeida’s style of play, he has shown to have tremendous speed. Almeida will make defenders pay every time that he touches the puck. His explosive speed allows him to pass defenders with ease. In addition, he loves driving the puck towards the net, deking out the goaltender and sneaking the puck through the five-hole or around them with a swift backhand shot. With his style of play, a great comparable is Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who like Almeida often likes to flex his speed, has similar size and loves creating havoc in front of the crease.
5. Tristan Jarry, G, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
HT/WT: 6-2/194 lbs
Drafted: 44th overall in the 2013 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Surrey, British Columbia native has had some playing time in the NHL level but is still considered a prospect. Unfortunately, with Casey DeSmith manning the pipes when Matt Murray is out of the lineup, there has not been a need for Jarry to take the reins. If an injury does occur, Jarry will be the next in line to be called up. Dor the time being it appears as if the 24-year-old will be playing in Wilkes-Barre for another season.
Last season, Jarry played in 47 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was solid in the pipes. He posted a 2.66 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .915 Save Percentage (SV%). His GAA and SV% have improved immensely from his 2017-18, but he still has not shown consistency in the AHL and this is a concern. Jarry tends to have up and down seasons. If he wants to fight for playing time at the NHL level, he needs to be stronger in net.
In terms of his playing style, Jarry is a typical hybrid goaltender. He is often on his knees and does not stand tall too often. He will occasionally sprawl out of the crease for the puck and has an adequate glove.
6. Juuso Riikola, LHD, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
HT/WT: 6-0/190 lbs
The 25-year-old defensive prospect from Joensuu, Finland, who previously played for the Liiga club, KalPa. Since coming to North America, the Penguins have not given Riikola a ton of playing time. Last season, he played in 37 games for the Penguins and notched five points. Riikola was averaged 16 minutes of ice-time for Pittsburgh last season. Additionally, he played in five games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in which he tallied two assists.
Given the Penguins left-handed depth, Riikola would benefit from more playing time in the AHL rather than being scratched and spending most of his time in the press box. With Letang, Justin Schultz and Erik Gudbranson, there is not a clear spot for Riikola. He could potentially be an option on the right side if Brian Dumoulin is not ready to return from his knee injury. That may depend on how the Penguins coaching staff views Riikola and if they believe that they are better off with him on the ice than right-handed depth defenseman Kevin Czuczman. If he does get some more ice time in the NHL this season, Penguins fans will get to see his solid puck-moving, which is the best part of his game.
7. Filip Hållander, C, Timra IK (SHL)
HT/WT: 6-1/190 lbs
Drafted: 58th overall in the 2018 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
While Hållander is on his entry-level deal, the Pittsburgh Penguins have loaned him out to Swedish club, Luleå HF. Last season, he played for Timra IK of the SHL and had quite a bit of success as a youngster playing in Sweden’s most elite league. In 45 games, Hållander tallied 7 goals and 14 assists.
Hållander can be an asset at both center and on the wing. With his production in the offensive zone and the Penguins depth at center, he will most likely be used on the wing when he is ready to come to North America and play at the NHL level.
In terms of his playing style, he loves to rush the net. He’ll often plant himself in front of the net and wait for his teammates to feed him the puck. On the power play, you will often see him play a James van Riemsdyk type role in front of the net as he looks to block the goalie’s sight-lines and help spark rebound opportunities. The most underrated part of Hållander’s game is his passing. When he is coming into the offensive zone on a rush and finds an open teammate, he will deliver a crisp quality pass almost every time.
8. Kasper Björkqvist, RW/LW, Providence College (NCAA)
HT/WT: 6-1/198 lbs
Drafted: 61st overall in the 2016 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
The Espoo, Finland native is coming off of his junior season with Providence College and will more than likely be joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this upcoming season. In his last season with Providence, he tallied 17 goals and 13 assists in 42 games played. He finished fourth in total points for Providence, behind Brandon Duhaime (Minnesota Wild prospect), Jack Dugan (Vegas Golden Knights prospect) and Josh Wilkins (Nashville Predators prospect).
Björkqvist loves to fight for loose pucks and drives hard towards the net. In addition, he has a great long range shot and always seems to find space for himself. While Björkqvist is a long way from the NHL, he is a fun prospect to watch and could potentially see third line minutes in Pittsburgh in the future.
9. Samuel Poulin, RW/LW, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
HT/WT: 6-1/207 lbs
Drafted: 21st overall in the 2019 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
When Poulin was drafted, TSN and NBC analyst Craig Button brought up some big concerns around his consistency. While there is quite a bit of concern about how consistent he can be in the QMJHL, there are quite a few qualities of his game that are worth noting. Poulin is a quality power forward, who has great physicality. His skating and shooting are impressive, but there is always room for Poulin to improve.
Button hit the nail right on the head. In Poulin’s two seasons in the QMJHL, his offensive production has not been consistent. In his 2017-18 season, Poulin mustered up 45 points in 55 games. Last season, the Blainville, Quebec native notched 76 points in 67 games. Poulin needs to have another season like last season for the Penguins to keep him on their radar.
10. Teodors Blugers, C/LW, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
HT/WT: 6-0/185 lbs
Drafted: 52nd overall in the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins
It has taken the Riga, Latvia native a while to bloom, but he finally has. Last season, Blugers put his name back on the map with a tremendous campaign with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In 45 games played, Blugers recorded 21 goals and 18 assists. In addition, he played in 28 games with Pittsburgh and tallied ten points. Given how well Blugers performed last season, he will likely be given another shot in the NHL this season.
Blugers has quality puck-movement, but his skating is sub-par. He has speed but does not utilize his edges or crossovers to help elevate his game. He will skate hard for pucks and look for opportunities to pounce on the crease, but he is not a play-maker. If deployed properly, he could be another Pascal Dupuis in Pittsburgh if playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but his fantasy upside is not that high.