Pittsburgh Penguins January Prospect Report

The Penguins organizational depth is not the best in the league, but it would be tough to find a more top-heavy organization, considering the type of potential superstars the penguins have in their farm system.

Joe Morrow is one of three can't-miss defensive prospects in the Penguins' system

Simone Despres and Eric Tangradi are currently with the Penguins, so let’s look at the other top Pens prospects waiting in the wings.

Joe Morrow

D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted: First round, 23rd overall 2011
6’0″, 199 lbs, 19 yrs old
2011-12: 14G, 32A in 41 games

Morrow is a smooth, gliding, Brooks Orpik-like skater. He has a huge, heavy shot. Not afraid to drop gloves or throw big hits. He’s physical yet offensive, as he is second in the WHL in points by defenseman with 46 (14g, 32a).

There were whispers of him almost making the Pens directly out of training camp, which would have been monumental for a 19-year-old defenseman. He played lights out in the NHL preseason.

The ceiling is as high as they come for this kid, and many scouts project him to be better than former Penguins number one prospect Simon Despres. An offensive defenseman who can shut down opposing forwards yet put up points is like a left-handed ace pitcher, as their value is skyrocketed by their rarity. Morrow fits the bill.

NHL comparable/maximum potential: most similar to an elite defenseman like NSH D Ryan Suter in the way he skates, shoots and hits. It should make a Penguins fan giddy thinking about a guy like this playing in the NHL possibly as soon as next year.

Beau Bennett

F, Denver University (NCAA)
Drafted: First round, 20th overall 2010
6’1″, 190 lbs, 20 yrs old
2011-12: 4G, 9A in 10 games (injured)

Bennett seems to always be in the right place at the right time, much like James Neal. He’s got a fantastic release and is a sniper through and through, along with having above-average passing ability. In all honesty, he’d be an ideal scoring winger for Sidney if he develops as planned.

Although Bennett may not go coast to coast or stick handle through an opposing d-man’s legs, the guy has a nose for the net. His value only goes up since he’s a right-handed scoring winger. He is still very raw, yet the talent is there for this California kid.

For improvement’s sake, he needs to play with more confidence and trust his underrated skating ability. Putting a little more weight on wouldn’t hurt either. He is going to be an exciting player to watch, especially if he keeps shooting like this:

NHL comparable/maximum potential: a James Neal-type is probably more realistic but the more I watch him fade away from the net and rip one timers past goalies in almost a stationary position in that video, Steven Stamkos (also right handed), if in style more than production, would not be that much of a reach.

Scott Harrington

D, London Knights (OHL)
Drafted: Second round, 5th overall 2011
6’1″, 200 lbs, 18 years old
2011-12: 6G, 16A in 67 games

Another smooth skating, puck moving defenseman, Harrington attests to the fact that Ray Shero knows how valuable such players are. Harrington made the Canadian World Junior team this winter, where he had a 4-point game against Denmark. He currently leads his junior team in points by defenseman with 22 (6G, 16A).

For those who may not be familiar with the level of talent in that tournament, WJC defenseman don’t often fall as low as the second round.

Harrington isn’t going to go end to end, deking everybody in sight like Kris Letang or Drew Doughty, but he will make a great first pass and possesses enough skill to man a NHL powerplay unit. For those who are big fans of Morrow and current Penguin Simon Despres, don’t sleep on this kid. Skating ability like his can take you a long way in the NHL.

NHL comparable/max potential: Brian Campbell

Tom Kuhnhackl

F, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)
Drafted: Fourth round, 110th overall 2010
6’2″, 183 lbs, 20 years old
2011-12: 6G, 11A in 15 games

The son of a German hockey legend, Kuhnhackl scored 39 goals in his first season in the OHL in 2010-2011 along with 29 assists (68 points in 63 games, 1.08 PPG).

I personally love this as kid a prospect, and may be higher on him than Bennett. He looks NHL ready when you watch his highlights and scores goals in ways that only a natural would know how. He has 16 points in only 15 games this year and is still serving a 20-game suspension for a monster hit in the video below (which Pittsburgh fans will be sure to love a guy like that).

Another guy who finds ways to put the puck in the net, Kuhnhackl is always around the net and in the scoring areas. He isn’t a terrific skater but he makes up for it with a great shot, and he is able to make his own plays and make his way around (or through) defenseman (start at 5:10):

He has great hockey sense to go with his NHL frame and puck-handling ability. This big lefty is closer than people think to putting on a Penguins sweater.

NHL comparable/ max potential: A left-handed Jason Spezza instantly comes to mind when you think of elite goal-scorers without elite skating ability (and when you watch the two).

His name hasn’t been mentioned as one of the untouchables for potential Penguins’ trades, but I hope he doesn’t go anywhere. This kid can be as dangerous as they come with the puck on his stick.

Philip Samuelsson

D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
Drafted: Second round, 61st overall 2009
6’3″, 200 lbs, 20 years old
2011-12: 1G, 7A, plus-6 in 38 games

Another son of a hockey legend (Ulf Samuelsson, former Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins), Philip is in his first year of pro hockey after two great seasons at hockey factory Boston College. He’s a durable, physical, stay-at-home defenseman who has the ability to shoot the puck. He has a good stick and hockey smarts to compliment his game to make up for the lack of speed.

His name alone won’t get him to the NHL but if he can improve on his skating ability (Deryk Engelland for example made HUGE progress in that department in the last two years so don’t count him out) and play within himself, Samuelsson’s future as a top-four NHL defenseman will be brighter than ever.

NHL comparison/max potential: Brooks Orpik is one of those guys who solidifies an NHL back-end. He’ll go up against opposing team’s first line and punish them every time they touch the puck, but will also beat you with his stick.

Samuelsson has shown shades of Orpik and with his great size (NHL-ready size for sure), being another Orpik would be a welcome sight for Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma.

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About BJ Zagorac