Coming into this 2011 Entry Draft, we have a pretty clear picture of where the Penguins stand in terms of their prospect pool.

The strength of their prospect property lies in a group of young defensemen in both the AHL and NCAA. In the AHL, Carl Sneep, Brian Strait, and Robert Bortuzzo have been cutting their teeth and earning a staunch reputation as reliable in the American league, while in the collegiate ranks Nick D’Agostino, Phillip Samuelsson, and Alex Velischek look to continue their improvement from last year. Meanwhile, Simon Despres is coming off of a season where he nearly made the team out of camp and then went on to win the Memorial Cup.

On the offensive side of the coin, there isn’t a ton to write home about in terms of pure skill and homegrown help on the wing. We’re well aware of Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson by now as they continue to push towards a regular spot on the NHL roster, but in the NCAA we only have two players that have consistently proved themselves as a threat; Beau Bennett and Ken Agostini.

The Penguins are in sore need of a forward that can provide some offensive punch, yet fit into the system the Penguins have established for themselves up to this point.

Below we’ll list a few players that could potentially be available when the Penguins pick at #23 this Friday night. This draft will certainly be a crapshoot, but hopefully we can have the same success as we did last year with Beau Bennett.

#3. Tyler Biggs – RW – USNTDP – 6’2 – 210lbs – Shoots R – April 30, 1993

One sentence that personifies Tyler Biggs is “guy that you hate playing against.” His size is already NHL-caliber, he’s a beast in front of the net and in the boards, and he moves well for a player of his size. Biggs isn’t devoid of offensive talent, either. He can surprise you with the quick wrister or occasional dangle. Which the pure offensive upside in terms of explosiveness might not be there, his size, wheels, and attitude are enough to hoist him to the next level.

#2. Phillip Danault – LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL) – 6’0 – 170lbs – Shoots L – February 24, 1993

Phillip Danault is oozing with passion. Projected as a future NHL captain, Danault plays the game in a physical fashion with some keen offensive ability to boot. This young man captained Victoriaville at a young age and his work ethic is infectious among his teammates. Danault loves to shoot the puck, and while he might not have a top-flight laser, he finds open space and gets the puck on net. Responsible at both ends of the ice, there is a bit higher of an offensive ceiling that I think people are willing to give Danault credit for. The bonus here is that Danault plays the game with little to no regard for his own well being. That being said, this is a guy that Shero loves. Fun trivia fact, his favorite NHL team is the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now for my huge cop-out. It’s nearly impossible for me to finally choose between these next two players, and since they play on the same team, I’m going with the a and b option here!

1b. Boone Jenner – C – Oshawa (OHL) – 6’1 – 204lbs – Shoots L – June 15, 1993

Jenner has been one of my favorite players to watch this year and I love what he brings to the table. Jenner is a big, two way center that can pretty much play any role you need him to. His offensive abilities are pretty evenly spread between playmaking and shooting, he can dangle well, and he plays the game in the boards. This is another kid that could potentially wear a letter at the NHL level. Jenner struggled this year to put it all together, but when crunch time came in the playoffs, he was a monster. Jenner could potentially make a smooth move to the wing and provide a unique combination of scoring ability and physicality.

1a. Nicklas Jensen – F – Oshawa (OHL) – 6’2 – 187lbs – Shoots L – March 6, 1993

If you’re looking for offensive explosiveness in the late first round, look no further. This Danish prospect adapted to the North American game extremely well and scored some of the nicest goals in the OHL this season. Jensen has some serious skills at his disposal and the ability to play on both wings. He’s a gifted skater, he has a great, heads-up style of play, he can dangle extremely well, and his shot is top-notch. Jensen creates space for both himself and his teammates by protecting the puck and dangling into open space to get chances on net and dish the puck off. Jensen needs to take the initiative a bit more and take some additional chances on a shift to shift basis, but he is continuing to adapt to the North American game and he looked more consistent in the post-season. Jensen presents himself as a threat offensively in a way that is unique to the current pool of Penguin forwards. He’s extremely dynamic and has NHL-caliber hands. The consistency seems coachable, and the bonus is some untapped physicality that exists with this youngster that presents another additional upside.

Stay tuned throughout the draft and follow me on twitter (@jmarshhh) for updates on more prospects and our weekend picks.