Prospect Watch is our new weekly feature covering the Penguins' prospects in college, juniors, and Europe. This feature is an expansion of the "Beyond the AHL" and "Top Pick Tracker" sections from our original Wilkes-Barre Watch format.
Wilkes-Barre Watch will focus exclusively on Wilkes-Barre and run every Monday. Wheeling Watch will focus exclusively on Wheeling and run every Tuesday. Prospect Watch will focus on prospects in the system who are not playing in Wilkes-Barre or Wheeling, and will run every Wednesday.
Other than Tristan Jarry in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Alex D'Orio is the only goaltending prospect the Penguins have under contract.
D'Orio, 19, is currently in his final season of junior hockey with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. This season, he has a record of 2-11, a goals against average of 4.68, and a save percentage of .882.
Yikes, right? Well, not exactly. Just glancing at his stats, some people may be concerned about D'Orio's abilities, but I want to stress that you can't judge him as a prospect based off of his goals against average and save percentage.
D'Orio plays for an awful team -- the Sea Dogs currently rank last in the league. The reason for that is that the Sea Dogs are in a rebuilding phase — they're the youngest team in the league, with an average age of 17.56. While other teams are sprinkled with NHL draft picks or undrafted players signed to NHL contracts, D'Orio is the only member of his team with any ties to an NHL club.
D'Orio currently leads the QMJHL in number of shots faced, with 543. As a result, he also leads the league in saves, with 479. Not only is he peppered with shots every game, he's facing a lot of high-quality chances.
The website Prospect-Stats tracks the danger level of shots for QMJHL players. The graphic below shows what is considered high-danger, medium-danger, and low-danger. The better position the shooter is in, the more dangerous the chance is.
[caption id="attachment_713900" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Prospect-Stats.com[/caption]
D'Orio leads the QMJHL in high-danger shots against, with 95 -- nearly 30 more than the next-highest goaltender. He also leads the league in medium-danger shots against, with 103 -- over 30 more than the next-highest goaltender.
Prospect-Stats also calculates a statistic called "adjusted goals saved above average", or "adj. GSAA". Essentially, this number takes into account the number of quality shots faced, and calculates how the league-average goaltender would have fared against those shots. A number in the positives means that the goaltender is performing better than the average goaltender would under the same circumstances, and a number in the negatives means the goaltender is performing poorly compared to the average goaltender. D'Orio's adjusted goals saved above average is 1.969, meaning he is handling the quality shots slightly better than the average goaltender.
Now, you don't need fancy stats to see how well D'Orio is doing this season. You can just look at the tape:
No matter how well D'Orio performs, he can't carry the entire team on his back, so don't expect his numbers to improve much this season. The Penguins aren't expecting them to improve either, and they aren't concerned. Quite the opposite, actually. Penguins director of player development Scott Young spoke on how D'Orio's situation is good for his development, both in terms of his mindset and the amount of action he sees.
"You learn a lot about his battle level and his mentality, and how he fights through adversity," Young said. "One of the things with Alex is that he played so many minutes and that's tough, but it's actually great for a goaltender as far as the shots that he sees. It says a lot about him, and we're really high on him."
Next season, D'Orio will likely make his professional debut in Wilkes-Barre, and have a team that can actually compete playing in front of him.
Drafted: 2018, fifth round
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Season totals: 13 games, 3 goals, 18 assists
Almeida is centering Moose Jaw's second line. He has a points per game average of 1.62, the highest of any Penguins prospect in any league so far this season. Most of his points have come from assists -- he's a playmaker and a smooth passer. He recorded this assist this week:
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals: 15 games, 8 goals, 11 assists
Bellerive, Lethbridge's captain, centers the top line. If anyone had any doubts how Bellerive would fare following his burn injuries over the summer, those doubts are gone now. He's on pace for 86 points this season. He amassed 92 points in 71 games last season. The WHL season was shortened from 72 games to 68 games this season, which just about accounts for the difference. He makes it look easy with this snipe this week:
Drafted: 2016, second round
Team: Providence College (NCAA)
Season totals: 6 games, 2 goals, 2 assists
Bjorkqvist is playing left wing on the Friars' first line this season. He was off to a slow start this season, and didn't record his first goal of the season until last week. His production carried into this week, with this goal against Boston University on Oct. 26:
Just as impressive as the goal, if not more, was his work on this assist, moving past the Boston defenseman with speed and skillfully holding onto the puck until his teammate Brandon Duhaime was in perfect position, and sending the puck his way with a strong backhand.
Drafted: 2017, fifth round
Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Season totals: 15 games, 6 goals, 13 assists
Drozg is playing on the right side of Shawinigan's second line. He had three goals in three days in the Cataractes' games on Oct. 19, 20, and 21. Drozg is in a situation much like D'Orio's -- he's on a pretty bad QMJHL team. Typically, the QMJHL isn't the ideal place for a player to work on his defensive game -- unless your team is in their own zone the majority of the game like the Cataractes are. So, like D'Orio, while Drozg won't win many games, he's playing in situations that are good for his development.
Drafted: 2018, sixth round
Team: St. Sebastian's School (USHS-Prep)
Season totals: None
Gorman remains in high school after repeating a grade. His season begins on Nov. 17. He is committed to play at Boston University in 2019-20.
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Timrå IK (SHL)
Season totals: 12 games, 2 goals, 5 assists
Hallander is playing on the left side of Timra's first line -- a good sign for a rookie playing in his first SHL season. Unlike the rest of his 2018 draft class, Hallander is already playing against grown men. That should make the transition easier whenever the Penguins choose to bring Hallander over to North America.
Drafted: 2015, seventh round
Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Season totals: 5 games, 2 goals, 4 assists
Pavlychev has spent time centering the Nittany Lions' first and second lines in his junior season. It's early in the season, but through five games he's already on pace to record over 40 points this season -- a big jump from last season's total of 15. He's currently one assist shy of his total from last season, despite playing in 1/7th the number of games.
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals: 15 games, 2 goals, 14 assists
Addison has bounced between all three of the Hurricanes' defense pairings this season, and has played on both the left and right sides. He's clearly skilled at playmaking and is strong on the power play, but has some lingering defensive struggles. There have been times he's just looked completely uninterested in backchecking at all. He's still young and will spend this season and the next in juniors, so he has time to mature.
Drafted: 2016, fifth round
Team: HPK (Liiga), HPK U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Season totals: 5 games, 1 assist with HPK; 2 games, 1 assist with HPK U20
Almari has spent time in the top Finnish league and the junior league this season, but he's currently playing in the top league. He's never been much of a point-producer, and this season is no exception. Almari's HPK team is deep defensively, with three other recent mid-round NHL draft picks. Almari has played on the second pairing on the right side, but he's also been a healthy scratch at times.
Drafted: 2016, fourth round
Team: Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Season totals: 6 games, 2 assists
Jones is playing on the left side of Omaha's first defense pairing. I streamed both of Nebraska-Omaha's games this week against Arizona State, and the biggest takeaway from that game was that Jones needed to improve his discipline. He took two minor penalties in the first game, and three in the second game. They were his first infractions of the season, but he also was second on the team in penalty minutes last season with 32 minutes in 34 games.
Drafted: 2017, second round
Team: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Season totals: None
Lauzon is still rehabbing from the neck injury he sustained last season. He has resumed training on his own, and is expected to return to practice late November and return to game action in December.
Drafted: 2017, sixth round
Team: Lukko (Liiga), Lukko U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Season totals: 3 games, 1 assist with Lukko; 13 games, 3 goals, 5 assists with Lukko U20
Palojarvi hoped to play primarily in the top Finnish league this season. While he did make his Liiga debut, he's spent most of the season with the U20 team. With eight points in 13 U20 games, he's outpacing his production of 12 points in 44 U20 games last season.
Drafted: 2017, third round
Team: Minnesota (NCAA)
Season totals: 3 games, 4 assists
Phillips played a partial season last year that counted toward his freshman year of eligibility. Phillips was playing in the USHL and committed to Minnesota, and was brought in by the team earlier than expected to rejuvenate the defense. This season, Phillips has been playing on the third defense pairing.
Drafted: 2017, seventh round
Team: Rensselaer Polytech. Inst. (NCAA)
Season totals: 5 games, 1 goal, 2 assists
Reilly was the last overall pick in the 2017 draft. Reilly scored this goal, his first of the season, against UConn on Oct. 20:
Will Reilly follows up on his own rebound to tie the game at 1-1 early in the third! pic.twitter.com/8gJ2BznEKt
— RPI Men's Hockey (@RPI_Hockey) October 21, 2018
Team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Season totals: 14 games, 4.68 goals against average, .882 save percentage
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