This is a continuation of the series of profiles of members of the Penguins’ organization. Dave Molinari recently completed profiles of the Penguins’ roster, and now I’m taking a look at select prospects not on the major-league roster:
THOMAS DI PAULI
Age: 25 Size: 5 foot 11, 187 pounds Position: Forward Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2016 2018-19 AHL stats: Seven goals, eight assists in 29 games
How he fits: Clark Donatelli used Di Pauli on the left wing anywhere from the first line to the third line last season. He has the skillset of a third-liner, but he could play anywhere.
Shortcomings: Through no real fault of his own, Di Pauli has been completely unable to stay healthy in his professional career. In three seasons, he's played just 108 regular season games, and no playoff games. 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 was eliminated from postseason contention.
Strengths: Di Pauli has speed, is a good playmaker, and plays a hard, gritty game.
Hidden variable: Last season, Di Pauli got off to a slow start. 12 games into last season, creeping into mid-November, he didn’t have any goals and had just two assists — one on an empty net goal and another on an Adam Johnson goal in October. In addition to staying healthy, he can't be stumbling out of the gate this season.
2019-20 expectations: I think that Di Pauli's bad injury luck is behind him. Even if Di Pauli is healthy, Sam Lafferty would likely be the first forward call-up this upcoming season, given how high management is on him. Anthony Angello, potentially Ryan Haggerty, and potentially Kasper Bjorkqvist would also likely be in line over Di Pauli if a forward is needed.
The big question: Will Di Pauli be able to stay healthy this season, and if so, what is he capable of doing over a full season?