Given the team’s glut of elite blue liners, it was also generally accepted that any deadline deals GM Ray Shero made this season would involve the purging of several talented young defensemen from the roster.
The only one to be moved, however, was Morrow, who went to the Dallas Stars in the Brenden Morrow trade. Both Bennett and Despres had promising rookie seasons and will be expected to make up part of the Penguins’ nucleus next season.
Here’s a look at the progress the Pens’ top prospects made in 2012-13.
Derrick Pouliot, D
1st round, 2012 (8th overall)
Portland Winterhawks, WHL (major juniors)
A fluid skater with elite offensive instincts, Pouliot’s build is NHL-ready at 6-0, 181-pounds. Pouliot’s ceiling is that of an offensive, puck-moving defenseman, and his progress this season has done nothing to change those expectations. Despite a nagging high-ankle sprain suffered in December, Pouliot averaged more than a point per game this season. He plays with a mean streak and sometimes takes unnecessary penalties, but he also just turned 19. He’s expected to play another season of junior hockey before making the jump to the AHL.
Brian Dumoulin, D
2nd round, 2009 (51st overall)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL (high minor leagues)
Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jordan Staal trade, Dumoulin spent his first pro season with the Baby Pens. A 6-3, 200-pounder who won the National Championship with Boston College in 2012, Dumoulin is a physical player who can also move the puck. He has a cannon-shot from the point on the power play. If he continues to develop, it would not be surprising to see Dumoulin reach the NHL for a brief stint in 2013-14.
Scott Harrington, D
2nd round, 2011 (54th overall)
London Knights, OHL (major juniors)
Harrington, a steady defender who plays a simple but effective game, is not as flashy as the other promising blue line prospects in the organization – but he may be closer to the NHL than any of them. The Knights’ captain and an alternate for Team Canada in the 2013 World Junior , Harrington is a leader with a high hockey IQ. He’ll join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL next season and could be in Pittsburgh before the season is out.
Olli Maatta, D
1st round, 2012 (22nd overall)
London Knights, OHL (major juniors)
Still young (19 in August), Maatta had an inconsistent 2012-13. After a tremendous start, his production fell off at mid-season and continued into the postseason. He did, however, play well for Team Finland in the 2013 World Junior Championships. Expectations have been that Maatta would eventually develop into an offensive defenseman, but his scoring touch and playmaking abilities have yet to mature. Another season of juniors lies ahead for Maatta.
Teddy Blueger, C
2nd round, 2012 (52nd overall)
By far the top forward prospect in an organization thin in that area, the Latvian-born Blueger shot to the top of the Pens’ prospects-charts after a promising first season in college. Skilled on the draw and sound in his own end, Blueger flashed some offensive ability this past season. He has a few years of college hockey to round out his skills, but he made great strides this past year.
Five More to Watch:
Scott Wilson, F
7th Round, 2011, (209th overall)
Harrison Ruopp, D
3rd Round, 2011 (84th overall)
Prince Albert Raiders, WHL (major juniors)
Anton Zlobin, F
6th Round, 2012 (173rd overall)
Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL (major juniors)
Eric Hartzell, G
Free Agent, 2013
Philip Samuelsson, D
2nd Round, 2009 (61st overall)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL (high minors)