7. Jeff Taylor
Last season stats (NCAA Union College): 38 GP, 9 G, 24 A, 33 P, 24 PIM.
Last season stats (AHL Penguins): 6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 0 PIM.
Taylor hasn’t yet transitioned fully to the AHL, having no points in his first six games, but his potential was proven in the NCAA. On a good Union College team, Taylor led the way from the point. He’s a power play quarterback and a mobile guy, which is what the Pittsburgh Penguins play style thrives on. If he’s able to make a better leap in his first full pro season, Taylor is someone to watch out for. The only problem is that he’s currently 23, and the Penguins may be impatient and want to test him sooner rather than later. Rushed development has never worked out.
6. Zachary Lauzon
Last season stats (QMJHL Rouyn-Noranda Huskies): 63 GP, 3 G, 18 A, 21 P, 90 PIM. 11 PGP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, 0 PIM.
Lauzon, the first Pittsburgh Penguins selection of 2017 (coming in the second round at #51 overall), won the QMJHL award for best defenseman. That’s an indicator of the kid’s ceiling, as he could continue to impress at every level as he makes his way up. One of the other defensemen drafted from the QMJHL by the Penguins was Kris Letang, so they have a terrific history with the league. Lauzon will go back to the Q this year, but he’ll make the jump to the AHL soon. He’s in a prime position as a defensive prospect – he’s got plenty of time to develop and he’s already proven himself.
5. Sam Lafferty
Last season stats (NCAA Brown University): 31 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 35 P, 32 PIM.
Lafferty put up a better than a point-per-game pace in the NCAA against some of the college system’s best teams. It was a massive step up for Lafferty, who was previously posting totals of 12 and 10 points in the same 31 games. He had 4 goals in each season, so the 13 goals look fluky. He’ll have another year with Brown, so the Penguins will get to find out. If it’s not a fluke, though, and he continues to prove himself, the Penguins will have room.