Courtesy of Point Park University

Penguins prospect rankings: No. 11-20 ☕

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Jake Lucchini, Emil Larmi. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

I get it. We do in-depth prospect features here, we do prospect film breakdowns, but what everyone really wants is the ranking. So here we go, we’re going to rank the Penguins’ prospects.

To qualify as a “prospect” for this exercise, there are three criteria.

  1. The player must be drafted by or under contract with Pittsburgh, not on an AHL deal with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
  2. The player must be age 25 or under.
  3. The player must not have played in an NHL game.

Using that criteria, we can come up with a list of 27 players. We’re going to break that into three separate lists running in reverse order over three days. Today, we continue with Nos. 11-20.

Yesterday: Nos. 21-27

20. WILL REILLY

Position: Defenseman
How acquired: 
2017, seventh round
Age: 
21
Shoots: Right
Size: 6-2, 196

Reilly still needs time to develop, but he's been impressive in college. He attends RPI, where he'll be a senior next season. As a junior, Reilly played on the top defense pairing and led all RPI defensemen in scoring with five goals and 13 assists in 33 games, finishing third in team scoring. Reilly is more of a defensive defenseman, but he's still able to chip in offensively.

19. THOMAS DI PAULI

Position: Forward
How acquired:
Drafted 2012, fourth round by Washington, signed as unrestricted free agent in 2016
Age: 
25
Shoots: Right
Size: 5-11, 187

Di Pauli has been unable to stay healthy through his first three years in the organization, through no fault of his own. He's only played in 108 regular season games, playing no more than 58 in a single season. He was limited to just 21 games as a rookie after electing to have back surgery to alleviate pain that he could have continued to play through, if he had to.

Last season, Di Pauli played his last game in December after sustaining a lower-body injury, and he was nearing a return to the lineup when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was eliminated from postseason contention. The Penguins re-signed Di Pauli to a one-year deal in April, a sign that they believe he's past his bad luck with injuries.

18. NICLAS ALMARI

Position: Defenseman
How acquired:
2016, fifth round
Age: 
21
Shoots: Left
Size: 6-1, 178

Almari was more of a regular in HPK's lineup in the top Finnish men's league last season, but he typically played on HPK's bottom pairing or as an extra defenseman.

He's more of a puck-moving defenseman, but has only recorded eight goals and 10 assists in 108 games over the past three seasons in the low-scoring Liiga.

HPK had Almari listed at 178 pounds last season, a 10-pound gain from when he was drafted. He'll need to continue to get stronger as he makes the move to North America next season.

17. CLAYTON PHILLIPS

Position: Defenseman
How acquired:
2017, third round
Age: 
19
Shoots: Left
Size: 5-11, 183

Phillips has taken an interesting development path. He originally was not supposed to make the move to college hockey until the 2018-19 season, but was brought in by Minnesota midway through the 2017-18 season — Minnesota was looking to provide a spark to its offense. He played in only 11 games that season, but burned through a year of eligibility.

Last season was Phillips' first full NCAA season, under a new coaching staff in Minnesota. He was given a large top-pairing role and quarterbacked Minnesota's power play, but he still didn't seem quite ready for that responsibility. His former USHL coach said that he believed Phillips was brought in by Minnesota a season too early.

Phillips will be transferring from Minnesota, and all signs point toward him joining Penn State. NCAA transfer rules dictate that Phillips sit out for one year before joining his new team, but the Penguins are working to get Phillips immediate eligibility.

16. ALEX D'ORIO

Position: Goaltender
How acquired:
2017, undrafted free agent signing
Age: 
20
Catches: Right
Size: 6-2, 210

Despite what the numbers will show, D'Orio had a great final two seasons of junior hockey. He spent most of his junior career on a rebuilding Saint John Sea Dogs team with a young group of defensemen, facing upward of 50 shots some nights. Multiple members of the Penguins' front office spoke about being impressed by the way D'Orio handled the adversity of his situation, and how he was able to remain strong mentally.

Goaltenders' future success is especially hard to predict, and D'Orio hasn't played a professional season yet. Given the number of goaltenders already in the system, he'll likely begin the season with the Nailers. Starting in the ECHL isn't a bad thing for a goaltender. Just ask the 16 former Wheeling goaltenders who went on to play in the NHL, including current Penguins back-up Casey DeSmith.

15. JAN DROZG

Position: Forward
How acquired:
2017, fifth round
Age: 
20
Shoots: Right
Size: 6-2, 175

Much like D'Orio, Drozg is coming from a situation in juniors where he was the top player on a rebuilding QMJHL team.

Drozg is a fast, skilled player with great hands; he just needs to work on getting physically stronger and growing his overall game. He told me that he believes he's made strides in his defensive game in juniors, mainly because his team spent the majority of games in their own zone. Still, there's a big difference in playing defense for a bad junior team and playing for a competitive professional team.

14. ANTHONY ANGELLO

Position: Forward
How acquired:
2014, fifth round
Age: 
23
Shoots: Right
Size: 6-5, 210

Last season was Angello's first professional season, and he finished fifth on Wilkes-Barre in goals (16) and eighth in points (29).

Angello should be one of the first forwards in line for a recall next season. He has the strength needed to take the next step, plays physical and has a good two-way game. He's versatile, playing both center and wing. He doesn't have as high of an upside as some other forwards in the system, and projects to be a bottom-6 forward.

13. SAM MILETIC

Position: Forward
How acquired:
2017, undrafted free agent signing
Age: 
22
Shoots: Left
Size: 6-0, 196

After spending an over-age year in the OHL, Miletic proved that he was ready for the AHL in his rookie season. Miletic finished sixth on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 23 assists in just 49 games after missing significant time with two separate injuries early in the season.

Miletic is another forward who could be one of the first in line for NHL time next season.

12. EMIL LARMI

Position: Goaltender
How acquired:
2019, undrafted free agent signing
Age: 
22
Catches: Left
Size: 6-0, 185

I rank Larmi the higher of the two goaltending prospects in the system because Larmi is joining the organization with four years of professional experience, including three in the top men's league and a championship season in his final year in Finland.

Here's a more in-depth look at Larmi's game, with film analysis.

I expect Larmi to start in Wilkes-Barre next season, splitting time with Dustin Tokarski, who is on an AHL deal.

11. JAKE LUCCHINI

Position: Forward
How acquired:
2019, undrafted free agent signing
Age: 
24
Shoots: Left
Size: 5-11, 183

Lucchini attended the Penguins’ prospect development camp on a tryout invitation last summer. He returned to school at Michigan Tech for his senior season, where the Penguins kept an eye on his progress. He finished his senior year with 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games, and earned a one-year contract.

Lucchini joined Wilkes-Barre on an amateur contract after Michigan Tech’s season ended, and he made a great first impression with six goals and one assist in 15 games. He plays a solid two-way game.

Lucchini will likely spend most of the year in the AHL as he further adjusts to the professional game, but he seems to have a high upside.

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