The challenge to select sensibly is back this week for the Pittsburgh Penguins as the 55th National Hockey League Entry Draft is Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24 at the home of the Chicago Blackhawks, the United Center.
With the Stanley Cup secured, the Black and Gold’s initial pick is the 31st and last of the first round. Their next choices also close out the round starting at 93 in the third, 155 in the fifth, 186 in the sixth, and 217 in the seventh.
Pittsburgh dealt their second-round pick in February 2017 to the Carolina Hurricanes along with right-wing Danny Kristo for defenseman Ron Hainsey. The Pens sent their fourth rounder plus forward Eric Fehr and defenseman Steve Oleksy in March 2017 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Frank Corrado.
Last June, the Penguins did not have a pick in the first round as a result of the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. The Black and Gold owned two selections in the second round and took goalie Filip Gustavsson 55th and right-wing Kasper Bjorkvist 61st overall. Gustavsson played for Luleå HF in the Swedish Hockey League and put together a 4-10-0 record with a 2.70 goals-against-average, and a .911 save percentage in 2016-2017. Bjorkvist had three goals and six assists for nine points in 30 games for Providence College this past season.
Time to poke around the internet and see who is projected by the experts as Pittsburgh’s first pick. Which player could be headed to 1001 Fifth Avenue shortly?
Allan Mitchell of Bleacher Report thinks Pittsburgh grabs one of the best scorers in the Ontario Hockey League this past season in Jason Robertson of the Kingston Frontenacs. This productive 6-foot-2, 194-pound left-wing recorded 99 points over 79 contests.
Over at CSNNE.com, Joe Haggerty predicts the Penguins closing out the first-round with the puck-moving skills of defenseman Erik Brannstrom. The 5-foot-10, 173-pound d-man with HV71 Jonkoping in the Swedish Hockey League collected six points this past season in 35 games.
Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com envisions the Pens front office augmenting the offense, choosing Guelph Storm left-wing Isaac Ratcliffe. Last season, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound forward came through with 28 goals and 54 points in 67 battles across the Ontario Hockey League.
Hooks Orpik from Pensburgh on SBNation.com forecasts the Black and Gold trading up with the Arizona Coyotes to pick in the 23rd slot and opting for Kelowna Rockets’ defenceman Callan Foote. Over the 2016-2017 campaign, the 6-foot-4, 198-pound member of the blue line crew put up six goals and 51 assists for 57 points over 71 Western Hockey League match-ups.
Sportsnet.com’s Sam Cosentino has the Pens focusing on a forward and taking Shane Bowers of the Waterloo Black Hawks. The 6-foot, 178-pound center from Halifax, Nova Scotia claimed 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points last season in 60 United States Hockey League games.
Craig Button at TSN.com sees the Stanley Cup Champions adding Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Conor Timmins. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound defender tallied seven goals and 54 assists for 61 points over 67 Ontario Hockey League meetings in 2016-2017.
My Prediction: I am going to go along with the pundits who are calling for a defenseman to come to the City of Bridges. If the Pens do not move up, I think it could be Timmins or Brannstrom joining the Black and Gold.
Which position do you think the Penguins should stock up on in this draft? Let your friends know your opinion in the comments section and wait to see whose name is called this weekend.
Looking Back – NHL Prospects On YouTube.com – Conor Timmins 2G Vs. Spirit | Dec 29, 2016…