May 4, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Brian Gibbons (49) and center Marcel Goc (57) chase the puck against the New York Rangers during the first period in game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins Must Build Forward Prospects in their System

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Pittsburgh’s system is flourished with high-end defensive prospects, and most of them will be vying to make the roster next season.

Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot, Philip Samuelsson – the list of defensemen goes on-and-on. However, there’s little selection of highly-touted forward prospects in the minors.

Of course, Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, and Jayson Megna have potential to become outstanding players in due time, but the rest of their forward pool as a whole isn’t as stable as the defensemen. Anton Zlobin looks like a steal in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but beyond that, it’s slim pickings.

Which is why in this year’s draft the Penguins should start piling forward prospects into their organization.

Fact is, we don’t how long players like Craig Adams, Pascal Dupuis, and Chris Kunitz will be around due to their age. So, to be prepared ahead of time rather than pulling an all-nighter before a test, it’s in Pittsburgh’s best interest to build forwards from the ground up.

Now, the obvious position that many onlookers would suggest Pittsburgh work on is their goaltending; however, for Pens’ fans and colleagues who know the organization, they have a few promising young netminders in the works.

Tristan Jarry played a pivotal role in the Edmonton Oil Kings recent Memorial Cup victory, Matt Murray had a standout season playing for the Sault Ste. Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and let’s not forget Eric Hartzell, who was a Hobey Baker Award finalist (best player) last year playing for Quinnipiac University. Not to mention, Jeff Zatkoff will only get better next season.

So, this July, the focus is definitely on stacking up their forward ammo.

Only problem is, former general manager Ray Shero dealt nearly all of this year’s picks away via trades over the last year or so. For the draft, Pittsburgh has all of four picks – a first, fourth, sixth, and seventh. Being there playoff finish, they’ll have a late first-round pick, but here are a few names they should consider:

  • Nikolay Goldobin, RW – registered 94 points (38G, 56A) which ranked sixth in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
  • Ivan Barbashev, LW – recorded 68 points (25G, 43A) in 48 games, and led his team – Moncton Wildcats of the OHL – with 10 points (4G, 6A) in six postseason games.
  • Nikita Scherbak, LW – collected 78 points (28G, 50A), which led all Western Hockey League rookies.
  • John Quenneville, C – ranked fourth on the Brandon Wheat Kings of the OHL with 58 points, and third in goals with 25.

Whoever the new GM is going to be, he has to make sure to select a forward in the first. You can make the case that it has to be a winger as well.

Point being, with limited picks, Pittsburgh has to pounce on a forward or two, and jumpstart the their growth within the system.

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