The Best Fit at Each Position for Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 NHL Draft
The Pittsburgh Penguins have done a fantastic job in the past decade obtaining top-tier talent through the NHL Entry Draft. From securing superstar Sidney Crosby in 2005 to selecting the promising 19-year-old Olli Maatta in 2012, the Pens certainly know how to use the most important tool the league has to offer.
With a couple new faces taking over management and behind the bench duties this offseason, fans of the franchise will be glued to the television on June 27 when the draft kicks off in Philadelphia to witness where the future of the franchise is heading.
The club currently holds the No. 22 overall pick in the first round, and they won’t pick again until late in the fourth. Newly installed general manager Jim Rutherford could trade down for more selections or go all in and move up to reel in one of the big fish.
In this slideshow, I will choose the best selection the Pens could take for each position. I based my decisions on how well each prospect would fit into the franchise.
All stats and prospect information courtesy of Eliteprospects.com
The story of the offseason for the Penguins will be finding talent to rebuild the forward lines.
This year’s draft has plenty of potential superstars such as Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl, but they are both going to be top-five selections.
However, there are a plethora of gems who can fall right into the lap of the Penguins at No. 22 like right-winger Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires and left-winger Ivan Barbashev of the Moncton Wildcats.
In many mock drafts, like Bleacher Report's for example, the two 18-year-olds are expected to land late in the first, which gives the Penguins a solid chance of taking one or the other.
Ho-Sang and Barbashev both have incredible vision. They also possess an element of excitement that few players have. Their type of game fits the Pens speedy style perfectly.
Both posted incredible stats last season in the CHL. Ho-Sang logged 85 points—32 of which were goals. Barbashev netted 25 goals and 43 assists for 68 points for the Wildcats.
Landing either winger is the safest and smartest bet in my book.
Evgeni Malkin got time on the first line with Crosby late in the 2014 postseason. This freed up the second-line center position for Brandon Sutter, who has slowly been climbing the ranks ever since he was acquired in the 2012 trade that sent Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes.
After Sutter, the Pens are thin at the position. That’s where the draft comes in. I think the club can bring in a quality veteran to fill in on the third or fourth line in free agency for a temporary fix, but the time is now to start thinking about the future.
Barbashev, who we talked about in the last slide, has been known to play center as well as winger. If they do decide to go with the Russian, I think his versatility would help the club at both positions.
If they are truly looking for an all-around center though, then I think they should make a move for the Canadian-born Swede William Nylander, who will surely be a top-10 pick.
According to Elite Prospects, Nylander “skates very well, has impressive hands and is excellent at handling the puck at high speeds.”
He can pass too.
Having an unselfish teammate on a squad that has some of the top scoring threats in the league is crucial for obvious reasons.
If the Penguins are set on drafting a center, then they should look to trade up and acquire Nylander. A top-10 selection will be pricey, but they have the bait.
This year’s draft holds one of the best defensive prospects the league has seen in a while. 18-year-old Barrie Colts captain Aaron Ekblad is one of the most prized pieces in the draft, and there are many teams who have their eyes set on him. Many mocks believe the Florida Panthers, who have the first overall pick, will select him on June 27.
After Ekblad though, there really isn’t a large defensive crop to choose from.
I highly doubt the Penguins are looking to draft defensively in this year’s draft, but there is one reason I could possibly see them doing so.
The Penguins’ 2012 first-round draft picks, Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta both underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, and they may miss a good amount of the 2014-15 season. While Pouliot has yet to play in an NHL game, Maatta was a huge help on the blueline last season.
With uncertainty surrounding these two, I think the Pens could make a move for Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels.
While Fleury doesn’t have the same type of expectations as Ekblad, he can provide a physical presence on the ice and has the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. He reminds me of a bigger and stronger version of Kris Letang.
Once again, I don’t believe the Pens have Fleury, or any other defenseman for that matter, on their draft board this year.
While I am one of the few people who still believes Marc-Andre Fleury can shrug off his recent playoff demons, I can't deny his tenure with the Pens will be over sooner rather than later.
The Penguins have a few young prospects in their system who have a bright future for the team, like Tristan Jarry and Matthew Murray. Both were drafted in the past years to replace Fleury when his time in the 'Burgh is done.
If for some reason the Penguins are still in the market for a goaltender, I see them going for one of the two top goaltending prospects out of Scandinavia. Ville Husso of Finland and Jonas Johannsson both participated in the 2014 IIHF World U20 Championship. Husso won the gold as backup for the Finns, while Johannsson took the silver as his country's starter.
This year’s star netminder heading into the draft is Boston College’s Thatcher Demko. Demko will go in the first round most likely to the Minnesota Wild. The Wild were plagued by the injury bug this season in the crease, so expect a strong push by them to obtain the San Diego native early in Philly.
Like defense, I don’t see the Penguins selecting a goaltender this year.