The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed one of their top defense prospects to an entry level contract, announcing a three-year deal with 20-year-old Niclas Almari on Thursday.
A fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft, Almari helped HPK to the championship of the Finland’s top league this season. He had a goal, four assists and a minus-4 rating in 42 regular-season games.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Almari is known as a smart, two-way defender with good size.
“We’ve got high hopes for him,” assistant general manager Bill Guerin said. “He’s a guy that’s going to get you out of your own end. When he keeps his game simple, like every young player, his game is effective. I think he has a real good understanding of what he is.”
Almari is likely to start next season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He got his first taste of North American hockey with the AHL club at the end of last season, playing in two regular-season games and another in the playoffs.
Calen Addison, an undersized, 19-year-old offensive defenseman who had 65 points in 76 WHL games this season, is the organization’s top prospect on the blue line. Almari is at the top of the next tier, along with 2017 third-round draft pick Clayton Phillips, who just finished his sophomore year at Minnesota.