NHL ETAs for Pittsburgh Penguins' 2014 Draft Picks
It wasn’t a surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins had such an offensive-minded approach during the 2014 NHL draft, which concluded Saturday. The team stockpiled forwards using four of its five selections on three wingers and one center.
Going forward, I believe general manager Jim Rutherford did an amazing job not only building for the future but for the present as well, after trading right wing James Neal to the Nashville Predators for wingers Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling Friday.
Overall, the Penguins’ draft picks all have had a great deal of success in their past endeavors and one day may throw on the historic black and Vegas gold sweater.
Newly acquired players in the NHL aren’t guaranteed a spot on the pro roster. In this slideshow, I predict how long it will take each new Penguin to lace up for their first game in the show. To kick it off, let’s start with the Penguins’ first-round pick, Kasperi Kapanen.
Prospect stats and information courtesy of Eliteprospects.com.
Kasperi Kapanen, RW, Round 1, KalPa (SM-Liiga)
There were a couple reasons why this pick was a perfect fit for the Penguins.
First off, Finland’s Kapanen is the son of Sami Kapanen, the former-NHLer who played 12 years in the league for the Hartford Whalers, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers. Interestingly enough, the same man who selected his son last weekend drafted Sami in 1995. Rutherford knew that if Kasperi could fall into his lap at No. 22, then there was no doubt he would be their first-round selection.
Secondly, it was shocking that Kapanen even slid to No. 22 in the first place. In NHL.com’s three mock drafts, the experts had the 17-year-old slip to 12 to the Arizona Coyotes at the latest. It looks like the Penguins again came away with a steal.
Two years ago, the Pens drafted another Finn, Olli Maatta at the same exact spot they drafted Kapanen. Maatta spent a year with the London Knights of the OHL after being drafted and would go on to have a remarkable rookie season last year.
I could see the Pens doing the same thing with Kapanen. Sending him to the club’s AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre, would give him a taste of playing with the big boys.
While it’s a possibility the Penguins could give Kapanen a chance at the beginning of the season to make the pro roster, he is probably just a hair too young. Give him one more year before he is ready to make the next step.
Sam Lafferty, RW, Round 4, Deerfield Academy (USHS)
The Penguins missed out on some great prospects in the second and third rounds since they traded away those picks for players during the regular season. However, thanks to some top-tier scouts, I have faith that their fourth-round pick, Sam Lafferty, won't disappoint.
Lafferty comes from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, a city about two hours outside of Pittsburgh, which pretty much makes him a hometown boy. The 19-year-old spent his latest tenure with Deerfield Academy, a high school based in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
In high school, Lafferty tallied 21 goals and 34 assists in his senior year and will play next season with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League. In 2015, Lafferty is expected to attend Brown University, so it is safe to say we won’t be seeing Lafferty in a Pens sweater anytime soon.
College hockey will help polish Lafferty's skills for his NHL debut, which I believe will be a year after he graduates from Brown.
Anthony Angello, C, Round 5, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Like Lafferty, Anthony Angello will be playing Ivy League hockey after he concludes his USHL career. The center out of Albany, New York, notched 11 goals and 10 assists with the Omaha Lancers and will finish up one more year there before shipping off to Ithaca.
Angello is a big kid who stands 6’4” and weighs in at 190 pounds. While it is hard to predict when late rounders like him will make it to the NHL, he won't have to worry about putting on muscle when the time comes.
It will be a few years before he is even an AHLer, but I am positive he can be a difference-making player when his time comes.
Jaden Lindo, RW, Round 6, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Jared Lindo is a big-sized forward weighing 203 pounds and standing at 6’1”. He scored a total of 14 goals and 26 assists with the Attack and competed on Canada's Ontario squad at the 2013 World Hockey Challenge. He scored two goals and posted one assist with Ontario.
Elite Prospects wrote up a nice tidbit on Lindo’s style of play:
Possessing a seemingly non-stop motor, Lindo is quick on the forecheck and a pain to play against. He plays 200-feet, does the little things and is willing to take the necessary abuse to help his team win.
I like how he is noted for doing whatever it takes to help his club emerge victorious. If he continues to exemplify that ability to his coaches, then we’ll see his face in the big leagues in a few years.
Jeff Taylor, D, Round 7, Union College (ECAC)
Union College’s Jeff Taylor had a pretty nice freshman year with the Dutch, netting three goals and 13 assists as a defenseman and winning the NCAA National Championship.
That’s a pretty good start to a college career if you ask me. I think Taylor may have been the late-round gem of this year’s draft.
While the Penguins’ defensive corps is looking solid, it doesn’t hurt to add one more guy to the system, especially when he has so much more to show in the coming three years.
If Taylor can build off of the confidence that comes with winning a national championship as a freshman, then I could see this 20-year-old in the NHL as soon as he graduates.
Watch out for this guy.