The Penguins have drafted inside the top five 14 different times, with 3 of those picks being number one overall. They have 3 Stanley Cups to show for their high draft picks with players like Mario Lemieux, Marc Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby being the 3 number one picks. Players like Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr and Jordan Staal were other top 5 picks who helped with cups, while Craig Simpson who was drafted 2nd overall was packaged for defenceman Paul Coffey. Pittsburgh gave up picks and prospects a few years ago to get Marian Hossa at the deadline, but the well isn’t dry.
Here’s a look at the Penguins prospect snap shot.
Top Forward:Eric Tangradi
6.04, 221, 51 GP, 12-18-30
Pittsburgh acquired Tangradi along with veteran Chris Kunitz in exchange for Ryan Whitney, a former 5th overall pick. He’s a big power forward who can score as evidenced by his 38 goals and 88 points during his final season of junior with Bellville. He also chipped in with 8 goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games for the Bulls and could have done more damage had he not suffered a cut tendon in his arm that ended his post season. He looks like he could be a clutch scorer, as during his rookie season with Bellville he notched 17 points in 15 playoff games, just 3 points less then he had during 65 regular season games. Originally drafted by Anaheim in the 2nd round, Tangradi has had a respectable first season in the AHL with 30 points in 52 games. All of this while having a shortened off season training program because of his post season injury last year in junior. Tangradi uses his size well to protect the puck and create scoring chances, and while he’s not a bad skater, his mobility could be improved as he continues to adjust to the AHL. Pittsburgh doesn’t like to rush it’s prospects unless their names are Crosby, Staal, Malkin or Fleury, so it may be a while before Tangradi makes the jump but some are already dreaming of his big body skating alongside Canada’s Golden Goal getter. (photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL)
Top Defenceman:Simon Despres
6.04, 205, 57 GP, 9-33-42
Another prospect who has loads of size, Despres is the complete package as a blueliner. He’s a great skater, doesn’t neglect his own end and as his junior numbers have shown he can chip in offensively. The Sea Dog defenceman had 32 points last year and already has 42 this season including 7 more goals then last season. As mentioned Despres skates really well, especially for a guy who’s 6.04. It’s thought that he might be able to pack on some more pounds, in the right way and play around 220-225 down the road. Right now his fitness level allows him to succeed in junior, but he’ll learn as he goes what it takes to compete as a pro.
Top Goalie: Alex Pechurskiy
6.00, 190, 20 GP 10-6-1, 2.37, .916
This was a real tough choice to make as I was also leaning towards Brad Thiessen, more on that in a minute. Pechurskiy is so intriguing because of his road to North America. He was a 5th round pick in 2008 and has played for 3 teams in 3 different leagues this year. He started in KHL, then came across the pond to the Tri City Americans thanks to yeoman's work from Americans G.M. Bob Tory. Oddly enough while he was in North America he didn’t get picked by the Russians for their World Junior team. Shortly after his stay in Tri City began he was summoned to Vancouver as the Penguins were in town with an injured Marc Andre Fleury. Pechursky was the back up, but did get into the game, making 12 saves on 13 shots and earning 3rd star honours. As for his time in the WHL, he’s having a great year on a very good team. He has the second most shut outs in the league with 4 in 20 games, and his goals against average and save per centage are both above average. The Pens had their eye on Pechurskiy for a while, but were worried about getting him out of Russia. They were delighted that he was still available in round 5.
As for Thiessen, after a Hobey Baker candidate season with Northeastern during his final season in college he’s starting to settle into his first pro season. With the baby Penguins he has just one regulation loss in his last 6 games and was ridiculously good earlier this year when he made 38 saves on 39 shots in a win.
Most Underrated:Patrick Killeen
6.04, 204, 58 GP 22-22-12 2.43, .913
Talk about your team MVP, Brampton’s Patrick Killeen has 22 of his team’s 24 wins this year. They are 5th in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and are the lowest scoring team in the league meaning there is extra pressure on the last line of defence. He recently made 70 stops on 72 shots to post a 3-0 mark with 2 shut outs in being named OHL player of the week. The 6th round pick from 2008 (one round after Pechurskiy) owns the 3rd best goals against average, has a league best 5 shut outs, and is top ten in save percentage. Killeen uses his 6.04 frame well and has pretty good quickness.
Buzz Worthy:Nick Petersen
6.02, 186, 53 GP 37-37-74
Petersen is the definition of a late bloomer. He was passed over twice at the NHL draft before Pittsburgh snagged him last year. He wasn’t originally on their radar, but after watching his team play many time, Petersen forced his way onto their scouting reports with terrific play. He scored 37 times and added 53 assists for 90 points last year, and already has 37 goals this season with Saint John. He’s tenacious on the puck, has good vision and a nice shot. While he is 6.02, Petersen needs to put on some muscle, particularly in the lower body area. Petersen doesn’t have a great first step but once he gets going can be tough to stop.
(photo courtesy Saint John Sea Dogs)