Entering the weekend of the 2013 NHL entry draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins possessed a fairly scant array of picks. They relinquished their right to make any selections in the first or second round with pre-deadline trades for Jarome Iginla and Douglas Murray, thus giving the Flames and Sharks Nos. 28 and 58 overall, respectively.
Another deal with San Jose, completed shortly before the draft began, allowed Pittsburgh to restore its spot in the second round. Tyler Kennedy went to the Sharks with the Penguins taking the No. 50 overall pick in return.
Nothing that the Pens cultivate on the final day of June in Newark is likely to impact their immediate future. Nonetheless, a front office must always stay on a swivel to sustain stability in the present and keep all shelves quantitatively and qualitatively stocked for the long run.
How did general manager Ray Shero and company go about that on Sunday? Here is a round-by-round recap of Pittsburgh’s 2013 draft choices.
Tristan Jarry figures to ascend to the starting job with the Oil Kings in 2013-14 as colleague Laurent Brossoit, a Flames prospect, graduates from major junior to the AHL. Already, his development has paved a promising trajectory as his allotment of crease time in Edmonton nearly doubled from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and his stats improved substantially.
Jarry figures to garner more competitive seasoning after having pitched in on multiple championship runs. He won a gold medal with Team British Columbia at the 2011 Canada Winter Games and partook in Edmonton’s WHL playoff banner campaign in 2012.
A franchise like that of Pittsburgh, especially with its recent instability in net, can ask for little more from a goaltending prospect if it hopes to stay elite for as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are under contract.
As their chart on Hockey’s Future would indicate, the Penguins could use another amateur left wing in their system more than any other skater.
Jake Guentzel does shoot from the left side, but he is a natural center. In addition, his size at 152 pounds, though he is bound to pad on a little more, will inevitably leave open a little doubt.
Even so, at the highest level he has played up to this point, Guentzel has flaunted an enticingly solid release, particularly from the slot. As evidenced by the embedded video, that was one of the keys to his campaign as the USHL’s rookie of the year, as was his passing and intangible playmaking qualities.
Bound for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Guentzel’s best-case scenario is a long-term emergence as the next size-defying performer. Until then, he will be a hit-or-miss forward in the Pittsburgh pipeline.
Per Scott Barboza of ESPN Boston, one scout praised Massachusetts native Ryan Segalla for his “…over-the-top compete level. It’s second to none for kids around New England. He might play a little out of control at time, but he’s very strong, extremely physical. He’s tenacious.”
After the Penguins loaded up on high-end rising defensemen in Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot last year, they can afford to slow down and select a long-term project at this position. That’s Segalla, who will enroll at the University of Connecticut for 2014-15, the same year the UConn Huskies will transfer to the ultracompetitive Hockey East.
The Connecticut program figures to face a baptismal fire at that point, which will be a good test of Segalla’s determination. In a span of two, three or possibly four years, he should max out his physical strength and then be ready to learn the professional game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
To an even greater extent than his Pittsburgh predecessor pick Segalla, Birks is a long-term development project bound for the NCAA. He is slated to start at Michigan Tech in the 2015-16 season.
In turn, given what he already has to build on in terms of his body and resume, plus the fact that he still does not turn 18 until August 29, it certainly does not hurt to have him in the system.
When Kemptville 73’s center Blaine Byron committed to the University of Maine for 2013-14, Terry Nichols from the Kemptville front office told the Bangor Daily News, “He’s dynamic. He’s a puck control guy. He’s more of a setup guy (than a goal scorer). He’s great at protecting the puck. He’s smart and he understands the game.”
Like Guentzel, his fellow pivot and new college-bound Penguins prospect, Byron is a relatively small player. He does boast a little more brawn at 6’0 and 168 pounds at the moment, although his junior league is arguably less rigorous than the USHL.
Then again, in the same Bangor Daily News feature, Byron himself told author Larry Mahoney that he opted for Maine out of a rationale that Hockey East is one of the better college conferences. He will need to hold up his end of the bargain and patiently work his way through Orono and later the AHL in order to give Pittsburgh a hidden gem.
Troy Josephs is an overager in this draft, having turned 19 on May 9 of this year. But the more jutting numbers sit in his OJHL playoff stat line, which consisted of 24 games played and a 7-13-20 scoring log.
Those 13 helpers and 20 overall points placed him third among the champion St. Michael’s Buzzers. The ratio of how much of that output was his own and how much was inflated by the presence of other searing scorers may come into clearer view in the coming years.
A Clarkson University commitment for the fall of 2014, Josephs also saw action in last fall’s World Junior A Challenge. Any additional action of that nature he can pick up and use to build on his OJHL playoff ought to embolden his potential as a big-gamer.