Prospect Watch: Who makes playoffs?


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Niclas Almari. -- HPK / LIIGA

The Penguins prospects' seasons are winding down. Are any of their teams in position to make a run in the playoffs?

The Penguins have three prospects in the WHL -- Justin Almeida on the Moose Jaw Warriors, and Calen Addison and Jordy Bellerive on the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Almeida's Warriors haven't clinched a playoff spot yet, but currently rank fifth in the WHL's Eastern Conference with a 35-19-6-2 record. They'll likely officially clinch a spot this week.

Addison and Bellerive's Hurricanes are one spot and two points ahead of the Warriors in the standings, with a 35-18-5-5 record. They haven't clinched yet either, but like the Warriors, could this week.

The Penguins have three players in the QMJHL, although Zachary Lauzon is not playing this season due to injury. In the 18-team QMJHL, the entire league makes the playoffs except for the bottom two teams. Alex D'Orio's Baie-Comeau Drakkar sits second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 44-14-2-2. They're expected to make a deep run.

Jan Drozg's Shawinigan Cataractes rank last in the eight-team Western Conference with a record of 14-44-1-3, but there's still a chance they could take the final spot. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are much further behind with a record of 7-50-4-1. The Saint John Sea Dogs aren't quite as bad, with a 12-45-2-3 record. Drozg and the Cataractes could earn that final spot, although it would take a miracle for them to make it out of the first round.

Liam Gorman is the lone prospect in high school, and his season is already over.

The NCAA playoffs are run a little differently with the different conferences, but the top teams are clear. Kasper Bjorkqvist's Providence College Friars are ranked eighth in the country with a 20-9-6 record. Nikita Pavlychev and Penn State are ranked 18th with a 19-13-2 record. Other college teams with Penguins prospects aren't ranked.

He's not a prospect, but Austin Lemieux and Arizona State are ranked 13th with a 21-12-1 record.

The Penguins have three prospects in Europe, all in different leagues.

Antti Palojarvi is currently playing for SaPKo in the second-highest league in Finland, Mestis. SaPKo has already clinched a playoff spot, and currently rank fifth in the league. Niclas Almari plays in the top Finnish league, Liiga, and has yet to clinch a playoff spot but ranks fifth.

Filip Hallander's Timra IK rank last in the Swedish Hockey League, and have already qualified for the relegation series. The bottom two teams of the SHL and the top four teams from the second-tier Allsvenskan league will play in a round robin tournament. The top two teams of the tournament will play in the SHL next season, while the bottom four will play in Allsvenskan. If Hallander's team gets relegated, he doesn't have to return to Timra next season because the Penguins own his rights, he has already been signed.

If any junior or European prospects, or junior or senior college prospects' seasons end early enough, they can join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an amateur tryout contract to close out the season, and play in the AHL without their entry-level contracts kicking in.



Justin Almeida
Position: Center/Wing
Size: 5-11/160
Drafted: 2018, fifth round
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Season totals: 
58 games, 27 goals, 68 assists

Almeida appeared in four games for the Warriors, scoring two goals and six assists, bringing him up to 1.64 points per game this season.

Almeida's second goal was this outstanding shorthanded individual effort:

He spoke on Tuesday:

Jordy Bellerive
Position: Center
Size: 5-10/195
Drafted: Undrafted
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals:
63 games, 29 goals, 45 assists

Bellerive scored one goal and two assists in four games.

His goal was the game-winner in this 4-1 win over Regina:

Kasper Bjorkqvist
Position: Wing
Size: 6-1/198
Drafted: 2016, second round
Team: Providence College (NCAA)
Season totals: 
35 games, 14 goals, 11 assists

Bjorkqvist was scoreless in one game this week.

Mark Divver of the Providence Journal reported that Clark Donatelli and Scott Young made it out to a Friars game while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was in Providence.

Jan Drozg
Position: Wing
Size: 6-0/174
Drafted: 2017, fifth round
Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
54 games, 19 goals, 34 assists

Drozg scored one goal and three assists in three games.

The Penguins made public his entry-level contract signing. The deal carries an average annual value of $925,000 and a cap hit of $809,166 at the NHL level through 2021-22. He'll make $70,000 a year at the minor-league level.

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

Gorman's team's season ended on Feb. 27.

He'll be at Boston University next season.

Filip Hallander
Position: Center/Wing
Size: 6-1/190
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Timrå IK (SHL)
Season totals: 
41 games, 7 goals, 13 assists

Hallander recorded three assists in three games this week.

Nikita Pavlychev
Position: Center
Size: 6-8/225
Drafted: 2015, seventh round
Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Season totals: 
34 games, 14 goals, 14 assists

Pavlychev scored one goal in two games.


Calen Addison
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals: 
62 games, 11 goals, 50 assists

Addison recorded three assists over four games.

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

Almari was scoreless over two games.

Ryan Jones
Drafted: 2016, fourth round
Team: Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Season totals: 
32 games, 11 assists

Jones recorded two assists in two games. He played in his 100th career NCAA game on March 1.

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; 6 games, 1 goal, 1 assist with SaPKo

Palojarvi did not play this week.

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

Phillips returned from injury this week, and was scoreless in two games.

William Reilly
Drafted: 2017, seventh round
Team: Rensselaer Polytech (NCAA)
Season totals: 
31 games, 5 goals, 12 assists

Reilly recorded one assist in two games.

Reilly (No. 24) can be seen earning the assist in a power play against Harvard here:


Alex D’Orio
Drafted: Undrafted
Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
44 games (17-26), 3.80 goals against average, .886 save percentage

D'Orio played in three games this week, recording two wins and a loss.

He recorded a 25-save shutout over Chicoutimi on Feb. 28, and stopped 24 of 29 shots in a win over Sherbrooke the following night. He made 29 saves on 31 shots in a shootout loss to Quebec on March 3. He faced two shooters in the shootout, and allowed both goals.

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