Penguins' GM at the NHL Entry Draft
Following a playoff run that ended earlier than many expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins must now put the past behind them and look to the future and the 2013 NHL Entry Draft (begins on June 30th at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey).
Having traded away their first, second and fourth-round picks in trades for Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow, the Pens will not be in a position to add a lot of talent to their organization but will still look to add the right talent.
While it is possible that the Penguins may acquire more draft picks through trades of their restricted free agents like Tyler Kennedy and the negotiating rights to their unrestricted free agents like Jarome Iginla, there's no way to be sure what tricks Pens' GM Ray Shero has up his sleeve.
With that in mind, let's look at three positions of need the Pens have and three key prospects that may address those needs.
WHL goaltender Tristan Jarry
Given the recent speculation about the future of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and the lack of a top-notch goaltending prospect within the organization, the Pens need to draft a goaltender that they can groom. Projected middle rounder Tristan Jarry may be that guy.
Although he is a backup in the WHL, Jarry has sound mechanics and impressive numbers. During this past season, he posted a 1.61 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Rather than relying on flash and athleticism, Jarry is known for his strong positional play. This may make him a good compliment to Marc-Andre Fleury just as Tomas Vokoun, who also relies on positioning rather than athleticism, has been.
While some might be quick to dismiss the chances of a mid-round goaltender making an impact, they should remember that Jonathan Quick was a third-round selection in 2005 and was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2012.
Without goaltending help expected from the Pens farm system and with Tomas Vokoun having just one year remaining on his contract, the Pens need to add depth at the position and Tristan Jarry may be the right choice.
Forward Ryan Hartman
While the Penguins boast the most-talented group of skilled forwards in the NHL, they have not been able to able to draft and develop a power forward.
Instead, they have been compelled to look outside the organization to acquire grit and a net-front presence through trades. Having traded away Luca Caputi and Eric Tangradi in recent years, two players the Pens hoped would develop into NHL-calibre power forwards but never did, the Pens should look to add this type of player through the draft.
One prospect that may be available is Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Hartman has shown a willingness to get to the front of the net and a desire to play physical in traffic. In 39 games, he tallied 19 goals, 41 points and racked up 102 penalty minutes.
As the Pens found out against the Bruins, success in the playoffs requires a willingness to go to the net and high-traffic areas. Forwards like Ryan Hartman who are willing to do so should pique the interest of Pens' scouts.
In recent years, the Penguins have targeted defensemen who can play the up-tempo style that head coach Dan Bylsma has employed. Although the organization's blue line is well stocked with quality defensemen, fans shouldn't be surprised to see the Pens draft more.
One player that may attract their attention is Swedish-born defenseman Wilhelm Westlund. At 5'11" and 190 pounds, Westlund fits the physical mold and has the skating skills the Pens have traditionally looked for. With Douglas Murray and Mark Eaton entering free agency and Kris Letang's future with the club in doubt, the Pens' most pressing need will be on the blue line both next year and beyond.