Penguins: Top 5 Prospects Who Could Crack The Roster

Photo via New York Times

The Pittsburgh Penguins may not have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, but they have been doing well at bolstering their pool in the past few years. Through trades and drafts, the Penguins have added several prospects, and strong prospects as well. With GM Kyle Dubas making it known that he would like to surround the core players of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Erik Karlsson with youth, there are a few different prospects who could make that next step to the NHL next season and help bring some much-needed youth and speed back to one of the oldest teams in the NHL.

Here are the five prospects that have the likeliest shot (in my opinion) on making the Penguins roster for the 2024-25 season.

Joel Blomqvist (G)

The Finnish native took part in his first season in North America last year, with an impressive season in the AHL. The 22-year-old netminder and former second round pick in 2020 finished with a 25-12-6 record, along with a 2.16 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage. He also was named to the AHL All-Star team.

With the future of Jarry/Nedeljkovic very unknown at this point, Blomqvist is waiting in the wings to take the backup goaltender spot. Dubas has certainly made it known that he feels that Blomqvist is NHL ready, and that he wants Blomqvist to get at least some NHL reps next season. He is the likeliest player that will see the NHL next season unless something surprising happens.

Sam Poulin (F)

Poulin made his NHL debut in 2022-23, and there were a lot of hopes and expectations for him to make the team full-time for the 2023-24 season. However, things did not work out that way. He started the season in the AHL, and suffered an injury that kept him out for a chunk of the season. The 2019 first-round pick managed to pick it up and finished with 16 goals and 31 points in 41 games played. His two-way game seemed to improve thoroughly, and he also started to show a bit of a gritty side.

As for next season, if he can continue his strides he made in the later part of last season into training camp, he will be a contender to make the main roster. It is now or never for the 22-year-old. Time is running out for him to show that he can be a consistent NHL player. I expect him to come in strong in camp and make it out with a spot on the second or third line.

Vasili Ponomarev (F)

A lot of you may be wondering why Ponomarev is so low. I expect Ponomarev to be the most likely player on this list to make the NHL. The Penguins acquired him as part of the Jake Guentzel trade at the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, and after two seasons (and 11 games) in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, he put up 45 goals and 85 points in 114 games. He also had a goal in four games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

With great skating and decent two-way playing, he could be a solid candidate for the bottom six next year. He also could provide some depth scoring, which is something that the Penguins severely struggled with last season.

Brayden Yager (F)

These last two are more unlikely, but they are the best two prospects of the rest. Yager is the Penguins best prospect in a while, and a bonified top six forward. The 2023 first round pick had 35 goals and 95 points in 57 games with Moose Jaw in the WHL.

He is only 19, and is not shy of being NHL ready, but will likely make the jump to the AHL next season. I will not rule out him not making the team this season, but I feel safer to say that he will make the 2025-26 roster.

Ville Koivunen (F)

The last prospect on the list is like Yager, a future top-six winger in the NHL. Also acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jake Guentzel trade, the solid playmaker had 22 goals and 56 points in 59 games in the Finnish Liiga.

Another young talent that could surprise and make the team out of camp, the 20-year-old does have experience playing well against older men. However, like Yager, he is likely going to make the team in 2025-26. However, I would not be surprised if he is one of the first callups if injuries take place.

While the Penguins do not have a plethora of youth talent as other teams, they have a group of talented young players that should make an impact at the NHL level in the next couple of years.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

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Nik Shermeto

PT ‘23 | 🇺🇸/🇨🇦 | Penguins writer for Inside The Rink | Thoughts are my own.

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