Players Pittsburgh Penguins Should Consider Trading Up for in 2014 Draft
As we have seen in past drafts, it’s hard to predict where anyone could land, especially a superstar. Thankfully for the Pens, they don’t need a superstar. That slot was filled quite a while ago. Still, the team currently holds the 22nd pick and could benefit greatly by trading up to grab an impact player in the first round.
Goaltending and forward depth are two major areas of concern for the Penguins, but I do not believe a goalie will be on the Pens radar in late June. They have two young netminders in their system in Matthew Murray and Tristan Jarry who are still maturing. I think they can handle the current situation in free agency, which begins July 1.
With the draft set for June 27-28, let’s take a look at four prospects the Pens should consider trading up for.
All stats provided by Eliteprospects.com
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Halifax Mooseheads
On a team desperate for forward depth, projected top-10 pick Nikolaj Ehlers could be a huge help on the third line when he comes into the league.
The Danish-born winger had an outstanding first year in the CHL. He tore up the stats book by netting 49 goals and 55 assists for 104 points. He led every rookie in the league in each category. He capped off his unbelievable first year by winning the CHL Rookie of the Year award, which has previously been awarded to Patrick Kane, Joe Thornton and Sidney Crosby.
At 18 years old, Ehlers has an amazing amount of talent. Despite his small stature, he is extremely skilled with the puck and is known for making his linemates better players.
While he may begin as a third or fourth liner, the future is bright for Ehlers no matter where he ends up.
Haydn Fleury, D, Red Deer Rebels
The Pens have a healthy amount of young defensemen in their system, but it wouldn't hurt to add one more.
This year’s draft isn’t entirely populated with star blueliners, but there are a few guys capable of being a part of a club’s top defensive pairing early in their professional career, like Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts or Haydn Fleury of Red Deer.
Ekblad could be the top pick in the draft this year, so I won’t touch on him, but Fleury could be the gem of the first round, if that really means anything.
Fleury, along with 2012 first-round selections Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, could add leadership and grit to a young defensive front, thanks to his 6’3”, 207-pound frame.
While Fleury could give the Pens even more tenacity on the blue line, don’t expect them to select a defenseman with their first-round pick.
Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara IceDogs
While the other two forwards I listed are known for one or two outstanding qualities, 18-year-old Brendan Perlini is skilled in many facets of the game.
Elite Prospects describes Perlini like this: “a lethal combination of speed, puck skills and hockey sense, which allows him to make dynamic plays in all three zones. He plays a high puck possession game and thrives when the puck is on his stick.”
Having a guy like Perlini gives the Penguins a valuable tool. He can provide gritty goals in big games and help out on defense when his teammates begin to falter.
Guys like Perlini are winners. He reminds me of a young Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron. He has leadership qualities rarely seen in young forwards.
I don’t believe the Penguins have a player like this on their roster. He is probably the most conservative pick on this list if they are willing to trade up.
Sam Bennett, C/LW, Kingston Frontenacs
Why not make this a little more interesting?
Sure, 17-year-old Sam Bennett may be one of the top three prospects heading into the 2014 NHL Draft, but that doesn’t mean he has to wind up with a bottom-tier club. I know I said the Penguins don't need a superstar, and while it's highly unlikely that they will, the Pens do have the necessary tools to pull off a huge trade early in the draft to acquire Bennett.
They have the trade bait so why not cast out the line?
The Penguins can give away a good amount of talent in exchange for Bennett and still win the trade if they keep their core intact. They need a young, skilled forward to turn their franchise into a dynasty.
Bennett is a tough, two-way forward who amassed 36 goals and 55 assists in 57 games last season, and I assure you his name is the only name you will hear as draft day nears.