Thursday, July 31, 2014

30 Teams in 30 Days - Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins are next.

Matt Murray - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Murray had by far his best season in the OHL, putting together a consistent effort from start to finish for the first time. His strong play (as one of the league's top netminders) was one of the main reasons the Hounds were division winners this year. He's always had stretches of being a terrific netminder, but was never able to string together a full season of top notch performances. The most obvious reason was increased confidence in the crease, challenging shooters and relying on his massive frame to make saves. But, he's been working on getting quicker and he was much more fluid in his movements this year, staying square to shooters and getting himself out of position way less. He also improved his ability to control his rebounds and was much better at fighting through traffic. He's definitely on the right track. Next year, it remains to be seen what his role will be at the pro level. The Penguins have two capable NHL backups in Thomas Greiss and Jeff Zatkoff, and neither are exempt from waivers. Will one of them end up in the AHL, or will one be traded? If one ends up in the AHL, Murray will battle Eric Hartzell for the AHL back-up role. If not, he'll split playing time with Hartzel in Wilkes Barre and have the chance to emerge as the starter. I think he'll have a solid first professional year wherever he plays and regardless of how much he plays.

Matia Marcantuoni - Kitchener Rangers
I almost wonder if the Pens regret giving Marcantuoni his NHL ELC at the beginning of this past season, because he certainly did not progress very much. At this point, he seems like a pretty big long shot to develop into a quality professional player. In Kitchener, he never really developed an identity as a hockey player. His speed is certainly an asset, but I'd argue it might be his only above average quality. His offensive hockey sense never really developed and he's not an extremely effective player in front of the net or in the corners. And for all his speed, he doesn't create a ton of offense from it. His overall game is decent, but his physical game never really materialized after all those injuries. As a pro player, he's going to have to prove that he can use his speed to develop into an energy guy. Someone who can crash and bang. Someone who can force turnovers on the forecheck. Someone who can be an asset on the PK. These are all things that were never consistent in the OHL but will need to be in the pros in order for him to have a career. I don't expect a lot from him in his first pro season in the AHL, but you never know.

Jaden Lindo - Owen Sound Attack
No question the Pens got a steal in Lindo. If he were healthy this year, he likely would have ended up a top 100 pick. But he battled a knee injury and was finally shut down for surgery in February. He started off the year very strongly though. He's a real strong kid who can control the boards already and create space for his linemates. He's not afraid to play in front of the net and has a lot of potential to develop into a solid goal scorer from below the hash marks. Lindo is a strong physical presence, a good forechecker, and a competent defensive player. He's worked incredibly hard to recover from the surgery and should be poised for a good year in Owen Sound in 2014/2015. He'll likely play a top 6 role, will see time on the powerplay and should be a good bet for a 45-50 point year.

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