Wednesday, July 31, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins are up next.

Scott Harrington - London Knights
While his offensive game never really developed in the OHL, Harrington remains a very solid prospect for the NHL. Although he's certainly not the type of guy who looks comfortable running the point on the powerplay, or rushing the puck up ice, he does make a terrific first pass out of the zone and is good enough with the puck to withstand a tough forecheck. He's definitely fallen back into that strict stay at home type over the course of his OHL career, after failed attempts to be more aggressive offensively hindered previous seasons (especially his draft year). Defensively, he's also not the type of guy who will plaster forwards into the boards, or give them the business in front of the net. His game is all about anticipation and intelligence. He constantly finds himself in the right spot at the right time and has a very active stick in passing lanes. He also is a solid skater which allows him to be one step ahead of his check. Harrington is also a fantastic shot blocker. He'll give up his body and is completely fearless in this regard. While I don't ever see him being a first pairing defenseman, I do think he has a long NHL career ahead of him (think Montreal's Josh Gorges). I'm sure he plays out next year in Wilkes-Barre of the AHL, where I wouldn't expect much of an offensive contribution. You won't be able to just read the stats to determine his level of play. I do expect a rather seamless transition defensively though.

Olli Maatta - London Knights
Maatta's second season in the OHL was another good one, that culminated with a terrific performance in the postseason for the second year in a row. He's a very well rounded defender who does a lot of things well.This year, I thought his skating looked better, especially his first step quickness which allowed him to escape the forecheck with more efficiency. I also thought he looked more comfortable running the point on the powerplay and was more patient in letting plays open up for him. He used his shot better from the point this year and does a good job of getting low shots through to the net. Defensively, he tightened things up and was more consistent in zone coverage. He looked more confident and was letting the play come to him, rather than chasing the puck or players around. Next year, I suspect he'll be back in London where he'll continue to be one of the team's top defenseman. He'll see ice time in all situations and I look for him to increase his offensive output by being more aggressive in jumping up in the rush. I'd also like to see him increase his defensive intensity just a tad, to make him a harder guy to play against in the corners and in front of the net. A 45 point season, in addition to further improvements defensively would be a great year.

Matt Murray - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Murray remains a goalie with a lot of potential, but who still suffers through bouts of inconsistency. When he's on, he's nearly impossible to beat with his size and athletic package. He takes away the bottom of the net incredibly well because he moves post to post so quickly. And when he's in the butterfly, he also takes away the top part with his size and ability to challenge shooters. But he can still give up juicy rebounds, is still susceptible to longer shots, and can still be beaten five hole. Also seems like once he lets a few bad ones in, he can lack confidence and spirals downwards. But I still have a lot of faith in him as a prospect as I've seen him play too many terrific games (even this season) to suggest these inconsistencies can't be corrected. He's likely to enter next year as the starter in Sault Ste. Marie again (barring a trade) and I think he'll have a solid year. The Hounds are losing a lot on defense so they're going to need him to be better. 

Matia Martcantuoni - Kitchener Rangers
On the positive front, he stayed relatively healthy this year after having trouble with injuries the past two. On the negative front, he had the worst statistical season of his OHL career thus far. In this case, the stats do tell the whole story. He just hasn't developed into the player that the Rangers (and the Penguins) thought that he would. He's a great skater and he has the ability to carry the puck, but his possessions result in little offensive production. I'm not sure the elite level hockey sense is there for him to be a center, as seems to have trouble spotting teammates or creating significant offensive chances for them. He also seems hesitant to put forth a consistent effort without the puck and hasn't developed that mean streak that was flashed during his 16 year old season. That aggressive style seems to have died with the injury issues he's had over the last couple of seasons. Next year, he'll return to Kitchener where he'll again be counted on to play a top 6 role. If he wants to get a contract from the Pens, he's going to have to really step it up. I'd like to see Kitchener return him to the wing full time, where he can simplify his game and use his speed to be aggressive. If he wants a contract, I think he's going to need a 55-60 point year, anything less would be a disappointment at this point.

Clark Seymour - Peterborough Petes
While his selection by the Pens last year remains a bit of a mystery to me, Seymour is a solid player. He wore a letter for Peterborough this year and was one of their most consistent defenseman. He's hard to play against and is a physical player, especially in the corners where he's tough to beat out for the puck. His skating is also pretty fluid for a bigger, more defensively oriented guy. He stays with forwards well off the rush and does well to keep the play in front of him. Offensively, he can still be prone to turnovers in the defensive end and he needs to work on his ability to start the breakout. Since he's a pretty decent skater, I'd like to see him gain some confidence handling the puck and trying to skate out of harm, rather than force passes. I'm sure he returns to Peterborough for his overage year, where he'll have a chance to lead an improving club. Most players like him improve their offensive numbers in their overage year so I'd expect that. I could see him cracking the 25 point plateau.

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