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Penguins prospect Pouliot sees opportunity in Pittsburgh

Portland Winterhawks v Kelowna Rockets

KELOWNA, CANADA - APRIL 25: Derrick Pouliot #51 of the Portland Winterhawks skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets on April 25, 2014 during Game 5 of the third round of WHL Playoffs at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. The Portland Winterhawks won 7 - 3 and took the Western Conference Championship for the fourth year in a row earning them a place in the WHL final. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

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First, Derrick Pouliot needs to get healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery in May.

After that, the 20-year-old defenseman can focus on cracking a Pittsburgh blue line that no longer has Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland.

“A couple of veteran guys are out of the system now, so it’s an opportunity for maybe some younger guys to step up and earn their spots,” Pouliot said recently, per “But you have to earn it and, first and foremost, get healthy.”

A star with the powerhouse Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, Pouliot was the 8th overall pick in the 2012 draft, the offensive d-man the Penguins selected with the pick they received from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade.

As for his recovery from surgery, Pouliot says it’s “coming along good” and is hoping he can be healthy for training camp. If he’s able, he’ll battle with the likes of Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin, and Scott Harrington for an opportunity with the big club.