Pittsburgh Penguins fans have been treated with some phenomenal talent on their team over the years.
At one point they were blessed with a Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr duo, and in more recent years a tandem of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The franchise has won 5 Stanley Cups throughout their history, which came in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017.
Unfortunately, since their last Stanley Cup win in 2017, their roster has really thinned out. Thanks to the great play of both Crosby and Malkin, amongst some others, they have been able to still be a very successful regular season team. However, in the Playoffs in recent years, their lack of depth has been quite noticeable.
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While Pens fans will not want to hear this, there is no denying their window to win another Stanley Cup with this current core is getting smaller. There certainly is still a chance for them to win again given just how good their top players are, but with Malkin being 34 and Crosby 33, it is fair to wonder when one or possibly both will start to see a decline in their play.
In a perfect world, the Penguins would have plenty of high-end prospects ready to make their debut and help Crosby and Malkin secure their fourth Stanley Cup Championship. That isn’t the case however, as they have traded many of their top end picks and prospects over the years in order to pick up pieces that were meant to help the team at the time.
On top of that, they have also had to pick fairly low in a lot of drafts due to their regular season success. As a result, they have one of the shallower prospect pools throughout the league, but there are still a few on this list who project to be pretty solid players.
As mentioned in every other Top 8 Prospects articles throughout this series, any player who has played in more NHL games than any other league in a season, regardless of the season, will not be included.
With that being said, here are the Top 8 Prospects in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
8. Kasper Bjorkqvist
The Penguins Second-Round pick (No.61 overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Kasper Bjorkqvist, will need to have a big 2020-21 season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) Penguins if he hopes to become a future NHLer. The now 23-year-old suffered a knee injury in practice early in the 2019-20 season which forced him to miss nearly an entire year of development, as he was limited to just six games in his rookie season of pro hockey.
Thankfully, Bjorkqvist has made a full recovery and has been playing for KooKoo Kouvala of the SM-liiga while he waits for the AHL season to begin. In 20 games played, he has 13 points, which is good enough for third in team scoring. Heading into the final year of a two-year contract, he will have to score at a decent pace once the AHL season begins for the Penguins to consider bringing him back into the fold. He certainly has the skill to do so, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can put it all together.
7. Jonathan Gruden
The second prospect on this list is forward Jonathan Gruden, who was taken in the Fourth-Round (No. 95 overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators. The 20-year-old remained a Sens prospect until this October when it was announced that he and a Second-Round pick had been traded to the Pens in exchange for goaltender Matt Murray.
After being drafted, Gruden went to Miami University where he had a pretty disappointing freshman season, scoring just 3 goals and 15 points in 38 games. As a result of that, he decided to leave Miami and join the London Knights of the OHL. It turned out to be a great move for him, as he scored 30 goals and 66 points in just 59 games. Like many others, he has not been able to play yet this season due to the pandemic, but will likely suit up for WBS once the season begins.