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Corey Pronman Hockey Prospectus

October 13, 2011

Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus (September 6, 2011)

First, can you tell readers about Hockey Prospectus, how it got started and what readers should expect from your site over the next few months.

Well I wasn’t an original member of Hockey Prospectus– I joined the site in late 2009 whereas the site launched in early ‘09. While I am the prospect expert for the site regularly providing scouting and player development insight on the prospect world, the website is mainly one dedicated to statistical analysis in the sport of hockey.

Our writers are provide very quality work in the field of advanced hockey analysis, and we have our own proprietary metrics such as Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) which is a hockey version of baseball’s Wins Above Replacement but with goals instead of wins.

We also have a top of the line projection system in the sport called VUKOTA which provides projections for Goals Versus Threshold on top of your usual stats.  
 
Recently, you ranked the Penguins organization 25th in the NHL in terms of prospects (http://www.puckprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1044). Where do you see the organization lacking and how did this year’s draft help?

They lack a top-end prospect in the system that’s truly an anchor youngster. There’s talent, but not elite talent.

The system’s depth is good, if not above-average, but asides from Morrow, Despres and Kuhnhackl there’s not much top 6 F/top 4 D projection in that system. Beau Bennett has that upside, but I’m not that sold on him– for reasons I explain in the Penguins system profile.

The Pens draft was alright. They didn’t have many picks, Harrington I though was a decent pick where they got him, but getting Joe Morrow in the 20’s was excellent value. If it wasn’t for Joe Morrow, the Pens system may have been ranked a few spots lower. 
 
You rate Morrow as the top prospect of the organization – what impresses you most about the young defenseman to rank him higher than players like Despres?

His hockey sense definitely separates him from Despres as for Morrow it’s a clear strength, while for Despres it’s still a part of his game that holds him back. Morrow’s possession skills are top-end as he’s a tremendous puck-mover and thinker.

His skating is also very good. The physical part of his game raises some concerns, but the game revolves around possession and player’s possession skills and Morrow has a ton of those.

Despes has tremendous tools as he’s big, skates well, has good puck skills etc. but he’s still a bit of a project despite his great QMJHL season. I’d say both of Morrow and Despres’ ceilings are equivalent, but I have a bit more confidence in Morrow’s projection. 
 
 You also have Kuhnhackl ranked surprisingly high, at least to some. What do you see in his game and will he crack this Penguins lineup this season?

Kuhnhackl was seen as a potential first round pick at the beginning of the 2010 draft season, but his development stalled playing in Germany.

However his play in the OHL this year was nothing short of stellar, and had many scouts saying he looked like the player some thought he could be back in 2009. He’s a very skilled all-around player as he can skate, handle the puck, thinks the game well and shows a good physical work ethic.  

I doubt he makes the team, just because he has a lot of bulking up left to do. 
 
Conversely, Tangradi’s stock seems to be slipping as he struggles to take that next step. What’s missing in his game?

I personally think expectations were set too high for Tangradi, he’s progressed about what I’ve expected from him. He’s an okay 2nd liner/good 3rd line type of player as he’s a big man, will bang bodies, and has fine offensive skills.

His skating holds back his potential mostly.  

Which of the Penguins prospects has the greatest upside and potential to surprise, in your opinion?

I really like Kenneth Agostino. I tabbed him with a third line ceiling in my Penguins write up, but he’s progressed well over the summer and looked very good at the USA Under-20 camp. He had a great Freshman season and could be set to take the next step.

Pure upside is Simon Despres, but if I had to bet on who becomes the best player, it would be Joe Morrow.  

The Penguins signed Steve Sullivan this offseason. What can fans expect from Sullivan – can he be the 30-goal scoring winger this team seems to look for each season?

He’s in the tail-end of his career.

On a top team like the Penguins, he’s not a top-six player. His possession game last year was below-average, despite being relatively guarded in terms of his usage such as which zones he started in at even strength and the quality of competition he faced. He can still score when he gets his chances, which is nice, but the talent of being able to generate quantity of shots which is much more important has faded.

Speaking of new Penguins wingers, Neal seemed to do everything for the Penguins but score goals. What was the issue with him last season?

He was so, so unlucky. His shooting percentage 1.9% in Pittsburgh, as opposed to 13.1% the same season in Dallas. He’s a career 12.5% shooter too.

Research has shown shooting percentage tends to fluctuate like crazy and is mostly luck dependent than actual skill. If Neal gets 200 shots or more like he has the past two seasons he’ll score around 25 goals for Pittsburgh.
 
The Flyers and Capitals were very active this offseason. How do the Penguins match up with these teams now?

The Caps are the top guns in the conference as they’re stacked all-around.

I’m sure Pens fans are well aware of this, but if the Pens want to be a top player, it all revolves about the health of their top two guns especially Crosby. The Flyers took a step back, as they got NHL talent, but with a focus on future talent. Putting all their eggs in a basket with a goalie is usually a mistake, because goalie production is volatile and unpredictable, even for the best like Bryzgalov. 
 
Focusing on the league – any thoughts on any of the new ideas stemming from this year’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp?

No idea. I talked to a few sources about the event, but as one pro scout told me, “This camp is 80% about scouting prospects and 20% about the development ideas.”

I focus on the 80%.  

Any last thoughts for readers?

Be sure to stay tuned this summer for our annual yearbook Hockey Prospectus 2011-12 which will be available in mid-September. It will have detailed team essays for all 30 clubs with some of the best analysis in the business, on top of the VUKOTA projections for every player in the league.

It will also include a couple of research essays, and my Top 100 NHL Prospects.  

Thank you!

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