Mar 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres (47) shoots the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins Prospect Predictions For '14: Where Will They Be?

Before we know it, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be hosting their training camp in preparation for the 2014-15 campaign.

Expected to promote a few of their prospects this season, Pittsburgh will invite a number of their youth to camp, and decide whether or not they’re ready to compete at the NHL level.

While there were a number of players who departed from last season’s roster – Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, etc – the roster space for any of their aspiring prospects is still limited.

As it stands, the Penguins have 12 forwards, six defensemen, and three goalies, which would give you the indication only a couple prospects will get the call-up.

Well, considering Olli Maatta had offseason shoulder surgery, and his timetable runs into training camp/beginning of the season, and accompanied with the fact Nick Spaling and Brandon Sutter haven’t been signed off their restricted statuses yet, there could be a few more slots open for the taking.

Here’s a look at the prospects who have the best odds of making the roster, and where I believe they’ll wind up:

D, Simon Despres

Where He’ll Be: Pittsburgh Penguins

Despres, 22, has been up-and-down between the AHL and NHL ever since he was drafted in the first-round (30th overall) in 2009. However, this next season, I expect him to fully be on the Pens’ roster all season.

Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted that many people within the organization feel Despres is ready to be a full-time NHL player, and considering he’s got enough experience with Pittsburgh, this is his year to stay.

D, Brian Dumoulin

Where He’ll Be: Pittsburgh Penguins

Dumoulin, 22, was a brought over from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jordan Staal trade – a deal executed by former Canes and now Pens’ general manager Jim Rutherford. Dumoulin was probably the one undervalued piece in the deal, given Derrick Pouliot’s impending reign and Brandon Sutter’s presence.

However, Dumoulin’s experience in the NHL last season and Maatta’s timetable have me placing the 6-foot-4, 219-pound defenseman with Pittsburgh this year. His large frame and leadership qualities are hard to come by on the Pens’ defense, and although Kris Letang and Paul Martin are generals by example, they can’t stay healthy.

Dumoulin cracks the roster.

D, Scott Harrington

Where He’ll Be: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Harrington, 21, was selected in the second-round (54th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and has experience playing alongside Maatta for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). While he has just as much a chance as anybody to make the roster, he’s still too unpolished.

Enduring his first full season in the AHL, Harrington has yet to debut in the NHL, but with the way injuries circulate around the Penguins, he could make his first start one way or another this season.

F, Kasperi Kapanen 

Where He’ll Be: SM-Liiga, Finnish Elite League

Kapanen, 17, was reportedly impressive at the Pens’ prospect development camp last week; however, I don’t believe he’ll make the team.

Playing in the Finnish Elite League over recent seasons, Kapanen has the experience and pedigree to succeed in the NHL, but his shoulder injury and lack of game-action may worry the Pens into sending him back to Finland for one more year.

Do I think he should be on the team? Yes. But I don’t think he will.

D, Derrick Pouliot

Where He’ll Be: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Pouliot is Pittsburgh’s top prospect, and the hiring of his Western Hockey League (WHL) coach, Mike Johnston, as the Pens’ new head coach certainly boosts his odds of making the team, but his offseason shoulder surgery suggests otherwise.

With all the defensive prospects in the Pens’ system, I’m sure the organization is not going to rush their best one into possibly suffering another long-term injury. It’s unfortunate, because had he not underwent the procedure, I believe he would’ve donned a Pens’ sweater this season.

But he’ll have to wait a little longer.

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