5 Prospects Pittsburgh Penguins Should Have Their Eye on in 2014 Draft Class

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IIDecember 18, 2013

5 Prospects Pittsburgh Penguins Should Have Their Eye on in 2014 Draft Class

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    Despite constantly being among the top teams in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to maintain a strong stable of young talent due to solid drafting. They do an outstanding job of targeting players that fit the Pittsburgh mold, and they aren't afraid to trade up to take a guy they like.

    Their move for Tristan Jarry in the second round of the 2013 draft is a prime example.

    The likes of Aaron Ekblad or Leon Draisaitl would obviously fit in wonderfully in Pittsburgh, but the Penguins are not going to finish the season in a position to draft a highly coveted player in the first round.

    Barring a huge trade or major collapse, the scouts will try to do what they've always done by finding high-reward players beyond the 15th overall pick.

    That's the cutoff I'm using. If a guy is pegged as a player who will go in the top half of the draft, I'm assuming Pittsburgh won't be able to draft him. That doesn't mean there aren't several outstanding options worth keeping an eye on though.


    All statistics, including heights and weights, appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com.

Adrian Kempe, C

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 187 pounds


    Why He'd be a Good Penguin

    Pittsburgh is flush with speedy, gritty forwards, and Adrian Kempe fits that mold perfectly. He has a reputation as a feisty forechecker and is a player who knows how to use his wheels to cause havoc for the opposition.

    Kempe has a hunger for all things hockey and is known to be the first guy on the ice for practice and the last guy to leave it. His shot is heavy, and Kempe thrives during physical contests. Given the Penguins' affinity for these types of players, it wouldn't be surprising to see the team grab him if he's available at the draft.

Jakub Vrana, RW

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    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 165 pounds


    Why He'd be a Good Penguin

    On the other side of the skill spectrum is Jakub Vrana. While some scouts will undoubtedly be scared off by his smallish stature, he has the kind of skills to excel while playing alongside talented linemates. The Penguins already posses several slick young snipers, but with forwards like Beau Bennett graduating to the NHL, that part of the cupboard needs restocking.

    Vrana has a high hockey IQ, and his hands are quick enough to keep up with his mind. He also has an outstanding first few steps and is capable of beating defensemen with both his speed and stick skills.

    Most importantly, Vrana has shown a sincere dedication to his craft. He moved away from home as a teenager to pursue a higher level of hockey—not unlike numerous Canadian-trained players—and has found a niche as a 17-year-old playing in the Swedish Elite League. 

Jack Glover, D

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    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 172 pounds


    Why He'd be a Good Penguin

    While Kempe and Vrana might not be traditional targets for Pittsburgh, Jack Glover is right in the team's wheelhouse. He's a big, strong and intelligent defenseman who has been coming along quite nicely as a member of the U.S. National Development Team.

    If you're watching a game that Glover is involved in, you'll notice him almost immediately. His size is what jumps out at you first, but he's remarkably aware in all three zones and is just as comfortable moving the puck up ice as he is defending.

    His stock could rise by the end of the season, putting him outside of Pittsburgh's reach. If he's still available though, expect Ray Shero and Co. to take a long, hard look at Glover.

Sonny Milano, LW

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    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 176 pounds


    Why He'd be a Good Penguin

    Sonny Milano sometimes appears to be a European-trained player trapped inside the body of a New Yorker. He's an elusive and deceptive skater who has a noticeably quick stride. Milano is at his best when he's on his edges.

    He has an uncanny ability to get defenders to lean one way before cutting back across their bodies. His skill set makes him very difficult to contain, and he's started packing on the pounds over the last year as well. He was around 155 pounds last season but is now pushing 180.

    If he continues to get stronger while maintaining his poise and passion for playing with the puck, Milano could be an outstanding selection for any team later on in the draft.

Jake Virtanen, RW

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    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 190 pounds


    Why He'd be a Good Penguin

    You can't get through a Calgary Hitmen game without noticing Jake Virtanen for one reason or another. Unlike some highly talented players, he doesn't disappear when he isn't scoring. Instead, he can impact the outcome of the contests with his hitting just about as often as he can with goals.

    He isn't just a bull with his glare locked on red at all times though. Virtanen is an intelligent player who typically knows when to pick his spots. While his skating stride and shot don't seem dangerous on their own, the combination of size, speed and skill here is alluring.

    This is Pittsburgh's stretch pick. Virtanen could very well be gone within the first 12 or 13 selections, but if he slips for some reason, then he could be a fantastic element for the Penguins within a few years.


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