NHL Draft 2014: Final Look at the Pittsburgh Penguins' Best Options in 1st Round
As the final hours of speculation dwindle down before the 2014 NHL draft kicks off in Philadelphia tomorrow, general manager Jim Rutherford and his Pittsburgh Penguins are making their last minute considerations as to whom they will select with the No. 22 pick.
This year’s selection process is stockpiled with talented wingers, which is good news for the Pens.
The club has arguably the top two centers in the league in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, as well as the budding Brandon Sutter on the third line. However, finding the right men to flank them has started turning into an ordeal for the front office.
With Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz closing in on the dog days of their careers, as well as the futures of James Neal and Jussi Jokinen hanging in the balance, the Penguins are in need of some serious help at wing.
Sure, free agency and trades are viable options for short-term fixes, but the NHL draft is the obvious tool for the long run.
With the draft set to start at 7 p.m. ET tomorrow, let’s take one final look at the kids who may be calling the Golden Triangle their new home.
Josh Ho-Sang, C/RW, Windsor (OHL)
About a month ago, I talked about some possible players the Penguins could trade up for if that was a plan of theirs. As of right now, I honestly believe Rutherford and his staff can simply sit back and let the perfect piece fall right into their lap.
Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires is the piece to the puzzle that is the Penguins' forward lines. He is lightning-quick and possesses that “wow” factor you see in superstars such as Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk. Like these NHLers, he is capable of racking up point after point, as seen last season when he netted 32 goals and 53 assists for 85 points in his second year in the OHL.
He has received high praise from Spitfires owner Warren Rychel. In an interview with ESPN The Magazine’s Craig Custance, Rychel noted that there isn’t a single hockey player who mimics Ho-Sang’s style of play.
"There is no player like him. No player," Rychel said. "Sometimes guys ask, 'Who do you play like?' There’s no answer. Either he’s that unique or he has to change a bit."
A lot of mocks have Ho-Sang falling to the late teens or early 20s, so like I said before, unless they are worried he may go earlier than expected, the Penguins won’t have to lift a finger until their name is on the clock.
Nikita Scherbak, LW, Saskatoon (WHL)
Out of the Western Hockey League comes a special forward named Nikita Scherbak. Scherbak was NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale’s mock pick for the Penguins, and with good reason.
I stated that the 18-year-old Russian winger is unique not only because he can score plenty of points (which he can by the way—28 goals, 50 assists last season), but because he is a very unselfish player.
If drafted tomorrow night by the Pens, Scherbak’s willingness to share the puck would give way for more scoring opportunities for the Penguins’ star forwards. He has a great hockey sense that would work well with the likes of Crosby and Malkin.
NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan wrote up a very positive review for Scherbak:
Great skill and smarts, he’s played all three forward positions this year but his strength is on the right wing being a left hand shot, because he loves to drive the net. He really uses his linemates well, he’s an unselfish player and has really adapted well to the North American game.
He finished at No. 15 in the NHL Draft Prospect Rankings, which means the Penguins may have to give something up to acquire him. Looking at the type of player he could become within their organization, it would be entirely worth it.
Brendan Lemieux, LW, Barrie (OHL)
The Barrie Colts' Brendan Lemieux will be following in his father Claude’s footsteps when he is drafted into the NHL tomorrow.
Lemieux, like his father, is known to play the role of agitator on the ice by really getting under the skin of his opponents. It’s a tactic that has been used since the dawn of the game. If drafted by the Penguins, he would provide a sense of grit I haven’t seen on this team in a long time.
Now, let’s not overlook the fact that he can be more than just a thorn in a team's side. Lemieux can skate as well as his dad did and produce equally in both scoring columns. With the Colts last season, he posted 27 goals and 26 assists.
Elite Prospects has this to say about the second-generation winger:
Perfectly fits the cliche as a player you hate to play against but love to have on your team. Like his father Claude, Brendan will drive the opposing team crazy as he is the perfect agitator. Lemieux also has the ability to burn you offensively as he is a top 5 scorer on Barrie.
I believe the Penguins can easily land this kid in their current spot. He might be the gem of this year’s draft.