Prospect Watch: Who goes pro next year?


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You read about these guys each week ... but how close are they to making it to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton?

The Penguins have a few guys who will likely be aging out of junior hockey next season -- forwards Justin AlmeidaJan Drozg, and Jordy Bellerive, and goaltender Alex D'Orio.

These players, or any other junior prospects, will likely join Wilkes-Barre on amateur tryout deals this spring if their junior seasons end early and Wilkes-Barre is still playing. Those deals allow the players to train with Wilkes-Barre and potentially appear in a few games without burning any of their entry-level contract.

Now, it is still possible for these guys to spend one more year in juniors as a 20-year-old overager. This isn't that common, because junior teams have limited overager spots, and not many players would benefit from that extra year of junior hockey. If anyone did remain in juniors as an overager, it would be Almeida, just so he would have an extra year to put on some size and develop his overall game.

The Penguins have five prospects currently in college hockey, and none are seniors. Defensemen Clayton Phillips is a sophomore; forwards Nikita Pavlychev and Kasper Bjorkqvist, and defensemen Will Reilly and Ryan Jones are juniors.

Phillips won't be leaving college just yet, and Pavlychev has already said that he intends on playing all four years. It's unclear what Reilly and Jones' plans are, but I would be shocked if Bjorkqvist returns to Providence for his senior season. He was reportedly considering turning pro last summer, which bodes well for his chances this summer. He's ready now, and he definitely has the strength to succeed at the AHL level.

The Penguins have three prospects playing professionally in Europe -- defensemen Antti Palojarvi and Niclas Almari in Finland, and forward Filip Hallander in Sweden.

Almari will almost certainly be in Wilkes-Barre next season. Palojarvi isn't quite ready, and Hallander could go either way. Hallander is finding success in his first SHL season, but he's still so young at just 18. Given his age and the other forward prospects who will be coming to Wilkes-Barre next season, the Penguins may leave Hallander in the SHL for one more season. He could join Wilkes-Barre on an amateur agreement at the end of this season, though.

There are only two prospects who the Penguins must sign this summer or they lose those players' rights -- defensemen Zachary Lauzon and Joe Masonius. Neither will be signed due to injuries. Lauzon's concussion and neck-injury history is well documented. Masonius was injured on Day 1 of Pittsburgh's 2018 training camp. He attended Wilkes-Barre's camp on an AHL deal and was released, then signed with an ECHL team, played one game, and was released.



Justin Almeida
Position: Center/Wing
Size: 5-11/160
Drafted: 2018, fifth round
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Season totals: 
48 games, 23 goals, 53 assists

Almeida scored three goals and three assists in four games this week.

At 76 points, Almeida ranks second in scoring on his team, trailing the undrafted (and unsigned) forward Tristan Langan who is in his final season of junior hockey. Langan, who is Almeida's linemate, has 39 goals and 46 assists in 51 games this season.

*nudges Jim Rutherford*

Almeida and some of his teammates went up in the air with some of the Snowbirds, the Canadian Armed Forces flight demonstration team.

[caption id="attachment_773957" align="aligncenter" width="640"] A Snowbird (left) and young Penguin (right). -- MOOSE JAW WARRIORS / TWITTER[/caption]

Jordy Bellerive
Position: Center
Size: 5-10/195
Drafted: Undrafted
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals: 
53 games, 24 goals, 38 assists

Bellerive was scoreless in three games this week, a rare occurrence. He did have some close calls, though:

He appears to be all-in on this whole Pittsburgh thing, sporting a Pirates hat at a school appearance this week:

[caption id="attachment_773956" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Jordy Bellerive (left) at St. Paul's School in Lethbridge. -- LETHBRIDGE HURRICANES / TWITTER[/caption]

Kasper Bjorkqvist
Position: Wing
Size: 6-1/198
Drafted: 2016, second round
Team: Providence College (NCAA)
Season totals: 
30 games, 11 goals, 11 assists

Bjorkqvist was scoreless in two games this week.

Jan Drozg
Position: Wing
Size: 6-0/174
Drafted: 2017, fifth round
Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
45 games, 15 goals, 28 assists

Drozg scored one goal in three games this week.

Jean Deschesnes, a host on a Shawinigan radio station, reported this week that Drozg officially signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Penguins, although it has not been announced yet.

Liam Gorman
Position: Center
Size: 6-2/188
Drafted: 2018, sixth round
Team: St. Sebastian’s School (USHS-Prep)
Season totals: 

Gorman scored three goals this week.

Filip Hallander
Position: Center/Wing
Size: 6-1/190
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Timrå IK (SHL)
Season totals: 
31 games, 7 goals, 9 assists

Hallander was scoreless in one game this week.

Nikita Pavlychev
Position: Center
Size: 6-8/225
Drafted: 2015, seventh round
Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Season totals: 
28 games, 12 goals, 11 assists

Pavlychev played in two games this week and scored this goal:

His long reach played a huge part in that goal. His stick must be taller than some of the guys out there on the ice.


Calen Addison
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals:
52 games, 9 goals, 40 assists

Addison appeared in three games this week, recording one assist and this goal:

Niclas Almari
Size: 6-1/167
Drafted: 2016, fifth round
Team: HPK (Liiga), HPK U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Season totals: 
34 games, 1 goal, 4 assists with HPK; 2 games, 1 assist with HPK U20

Almari appeared in two scoreless games this week.

Ryan Jones
Drafted: 2016, fourth round
Team: Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Season totals: 
28 games, 9 assists

Jones played in two scoreless games this week.

Check out this save he made last week to keep the puck in the offensive zone against Western Michigan, leading to a goal:

Zachary Lauzon
Drafted: 2017, second round
Team: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Season totals: 

Lauzon, who has been rehabbing from the neck injury he sustained last season, will not play this season. He was not able to resume skating with the team. Lauzon will remain around the team for the remainder of the season and will travel with his teammates.

If the Penguins wish to retain Lauzon’s rights, they would have to sign him this summer. That won’t happen. Lauzon’s time as a Penguins prospect is most likely over, if not his entire career.

Antti Palojarvi
Drafted: 2017, sixth round
Team: Lukko (Liiga), Lukko U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga), SaPKo (Mestis)
Season totals: 
16 games, 2 assists with Lukko; 29 games, 4 goals, 9 assists with Lukko U20; 1 game, 1 goal with SaPKo

Palojarvi did not play this week. He remains with SaPKo.

Clayton Phillips
Size: 5-11/182
Drafted: 2017, third round
Team: Minnesota (NCAA)
Season totals: 
28 games, 1 goal, 9 assists

Phillips recorded two assists in two games this week.

William Reilly
Drafted: 2017, seventh round
Team: Rensselaer Polytech (NCAA)
Season totals: 
25 games, 5 goals, 10 assists

Reilly played in one game this week, and scored this power play goal:


Alex D’Orio
Drafted: Undrafted
Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
37 games (13-23), 3.85 goals against average, .887 save percentage

D'Orio played in two games this week, both were losses. He allowed five goals on 42 shots in a 6-2 loss to Sherbrooke, and three goals on 22 shots in a 4-0 loss to Victoriaville.

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