The Penguins have invited three undrafted free agents to this weekend’s Prospects Challenge: 18-year-old defenseman Liam Ross of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, 18-year-old winger Josh Williams of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, and 19-year-old center Billy Moskal of the OHL’s London Knights
All three of the players participated in the Penguins’ development camp earlier in the summer.
Today, we’ll take a deeper look at Moskal to see what he could potentially bring to the organization.
Team: London Knights (OHL)
Last season was Moskal's second full season in the OHL with the London Knights, a program known for producing NHL talent.
Moskal recorded seven goals and 19 assists in 66 games in a limited role in his 2017-18 season, and increased his production to 14 goals and 22 assists in 68 games in 2018-19.
In 2018, Moskal was ranked the No. 99 North American skater of the incoming draft class by Central Scouting and was projected to be a late-round pick, but went undrafted.
After Moskal was passed over in his second year of draft eligibility this summer, he received development camp invites from multiple NHL teams, and ultimately chose to attend the Penguins' camp. He was one of two undrafted free agent forwards invited back for the Prospects Challenge.
• Defensive game
Moskal has developed into a strong two-way player during his time in juniors. He's sound positionally in his own zone and is effective in cutting down opposing teams' passing lanes.
“If someone takes him, he’s going to be looked at as a two-way forward who has gotten a lot better away from the puck,” said Mark Seidel, the Sudbury-based head of North American Central Scouting. “You look at where his game has come from as a 16-year-old to where it was as an 18-year-old, and he has made big strides. A team may look at him and say he’s more of a finished product, so we know what we’re going to get out of him than an unknown 17-year-old.”
He's a penalty killer for the Knights, and was among the OHL's leading scorers in shorthanded points last season, with two goals and five assists.
#OHL: Excellent work on the PK by C Billy Moskal (2019/2000) that he finished with a SHG. Outstanding in the faceoff circle as well. Too good a mature, two-way center to not get drafted last year. Knights upped their lead to 3-1. pic.twitter.com/6K4pqYl3I4
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 13, 2019
In this clip, he carries the puck into the Hamilton zone while shorthanded and sets up his teammate for a prime chance:
What a PK shift by C Billy Moskal (Ranked No. 26-OA), who finds Formenton for a chance that hits the bar. More to his game than just checking, but Moskal is worth a draft pick for his PK and faceoffs alone. pic.twitter.com/NvgHLeAitb
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) March 2, 2019
Moskal is a great skater, primarily in terms of pure speed.
Among OHL forwards who took at least 900 faceoffs during the 2018-19 season, Moskal ranked second in faceoff win percentage with 59.7 percent, winning 762 of his 1,276 draws.
• Offensive game
While Moskal's defensive game is a strength, he told The Sudbury Star that he wants to focus on growing his offensive abilities. While he did increase his production this past season, he still only ranked ninth in scoring on the Knights. Working on his hands would translate to a better offensive game.
“My defensive game really shone this year,” he said. “This coming season, I’d like to have more of an offensive season, so that’s my focus for right now.”
If Moskal returns to the OHL, it would be his final non-overage season. If the Penguins choose to offer him a contract this summer, he would return to juniors, where he wouldn't yet count toward the team's 50-contract limit.
With his speed and strong two-way game, he projects to be a third-line, energy-type role player, someone who does the little things right.
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