Mar 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) skates with the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Phoenix Coyotes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins Need To Infuse Their Prospects

The Pittsburgh Penguins are entering the 2014-15 campaign fully rostered at every position.

As it stands, here’s the roster, per the Pens’ website:

Forwards

Defensemen

Goaltenders

Although they’re probably set to have this roster – or something relatively similar – Pittsburgh ought to strongly consider integrating more than just one prospect to start the season.

Of course, you don’t know what you have with this roster yet, so, by all means, this core could wind up being your best bet at winning; however, for the long run, the Penguins need to start grooming their youth in the pros sooner rather than later.

To be more specific, their defensive prospects deserve a call-up.

Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington, and Derrick Pouliot (if healthy) are all ready to join the NHL level, but because there’s six starters already rostered, it leaves them slim odds to be on the team to start the season. Maatta is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and could provide an outlet for one of these four prized defensemen, but how long will that last once Maatta returns?

The Penguins carried eight defensemen on the roster last season, and they should exercise that same idea this year. The organization needs to either commence their development in the NHL, or showcase their talents for future trade endeavors.

Despres is a player they seriously need to figure out if he can hack it as an everyday NHL player, and same goes for Dumoulin. But in Despres’ case, he was just improperly used by the old coaching staff, and was constantly jumping from the American Hockey League (AHL) back to Pittsburgh, which is never really the proper way to improve a prospect’s game.

Sure, Pittsburgh can wait the year out, let Ehrhoff and Martin walk, and by then be able to have enough room for their defensive prospects, but I don’t think it’s in the team’s best interest to enter the 2015-16 campaign with more rookies than experienced defensemen in their corps. I’m not suggesting the team has to utilize their younger prospects every game, but with the way Maatta performed at just 19-years-old, let’s see what the others can do.

Head coach Mike Johnston is said to prefer puck-moving defensemen, and Despres and Harrington are just that. Not to mention Pouliot is as well, and was under Johnston’s wing for many years with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Let’s also not forget the forwards, like Kasperi Kapanen, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Anton Zlobin, etc. While all of them could probably wait – except for Megna, perhaps – they definitely got the stones to hack it in the bigs.

Do I see Pittsburgh coming to the realization that maybe promoting their prospects is the right route? Yes. But will they do it? Beats me.

They want change, well then start rebuilding the defense for the future.

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