The Pittsburgh Penguins stole a lot of headlines on day one of the 2014 NHL Draft, trading star sniper James Neal to the Nashville Predators for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, then picking forward Kasperi Kapanen at the 22nd overall spot.
New general manager Jim Rutherford wanted to improve the Penguins forward depth, at the NHL level and organizationally, and feels the 2014 draft weekend was a success in that regard.
“We didn’t have a second and third round pick,” Rutherford said, “The one thing we wanted to do, with the fact we have as many young defenseman as we did, we wanted to draft some forwards. The guys we got, we like, especially the guy in the first round, where we got him at 22. So all in all, we feel good about the weekend.”
The Penguins organization left the 2014 NHL Draft with five new prospects, four of whom are forwards. The scouting staff was given full authority to make whatever selections they wanted, but were asked by management to place an emphasis on selecting a forward whenever it was possible.
Kasperi Kapanen, LW, KalPa Kuopio (Liiga)
1st round, 22nd overall
Height: 5-11 Weight: 180 lbs
There were a lot of players in the 2014 draft class with NHL bloodlines, but only Kasperi Kapanen was drafted by the same man who drafted his father. Kapanen’s father, longtime NHL forward Sami Kapanen, was selected by Rutherford in the 1995 NHL Draft when he was GM of the Hartford Whalers.
A skilled forward with fantastic skating ability, the Penguins scouting staff was surprised to see the younger Kapanen fall to the 22nd spot, as they had him rated seventh on their draft list. He was widely considered to be one of the top European prospects available, but a few lukewarm performances in tournaments and a shoulder injury may have scared some teams away.
Kapanen considers himself an offensively oriented player, who uses his skating and puck skills to make plays.
“I think skating is the biggest strength for me, and just playing with the puck,” Kapanen said. “Passing, shooting, goal scoring, I think those are the ones that stick out for me. Defensively, I have to be better if I want to play in the NHL someday.”
Standing at 5’11 and around 180 pounds, Kapanen does not strike a physically imposing presence on the ice, however, he has an extremely powerful lower body and is difficult to knock off the puck. He is already bigger than his father, who stands at 5’9, and is expected to fill out physically and get even stronger with time.
Unlike many European forwards, Kapanen spent much of his life in the United States and plays a style of game that should adapt well to the North American style of game. He plays hard along the boards and in the corners, and will chip the puck up ice if there is no space to carry it.
Kapanen is expected to return to Finland for the 2014-15 season, but only after he has tried to earn an NHL roster spot out of training camp.
“Of course I’m going to try and take a spot on the roster. That’s the wrong mentality if you think you can’t do it. That’s what I’m going to try to do. If not, I’m happy to go back to my home to of Kuopio and play there.”
Kapanen spoke with the media after being chosen by the Penguins, a conversation that is captured in this HF video.
Sam Lafferty, C/RW, Deerfield Academy (Massachusetts Prep)
4th round, 113th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 176 lbs
Lafferty is a strong, two-way forward who spent the past three years playing prep hockey for Deerfield Academy. He was very productive at the prep level, where he managed 95 points in 74 games over the past three years, but projects as more of a two way forward at the next level. He is not a skill-oriented player, he gets most of his points through hard work, though he does have a strong sot.
He is scheduled to play for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL in 2014-15 and Brown University for 2015-16.
Anthony Angello, C, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
5th round, 145th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 190 lbs
Angello is a prototypical power forward prospect. He seems to relish the physical side of the game and uses his big, 6’4 190 pound frame to impose his will on the opposition. He is good at protecting the puck along the boards and in the corners and never passes on an opportunity to play the body.
The 18-year-old is a high-achieving player academically, and was a co-recipient of the USHL’s scholar athlete award, honors he shared with Alex Tuch (MIN). He is scheduled to play for the Omaha Lancers for another season before playing for Cornell in 2015-16.
The Penguins continued to add size and grit to their depth chart when they selected Lindo in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. A physical, high energy forward, Lindo was ranked 96th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s mid-term 2014 draft rankings, but fell to the sixth round because of a knee injury he suffered in February.
The 18-year-old takes a lot of pride in his physical play and is very strong in the corners and along the boards. He is not highly skilled, but he is a good possession player, capable of creating space for his teammates through hard work and physical play.
He projects to be a bottom-six forward at the pro level, though he will need time in juniors to get stronger and faster. He also needs to stay healthy.
Jeff Taylor, D, Union Dutchmen (ECAC)
7th round, 203rd overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 181 lbs
Jeff Taylor is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who recently won an NCAA championship with Union College. As a freshman, Taylor often played alongside standout defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI), and managed three goals and 13 assists through 41 games.
The 20-year-old defenseman has a good hockey IQ and is a solid skater, though he is not particularly big or strong. He has a solid offensive game and was a contributor for Union’s powerplay, where he chipped in five assists.
Taylor is expected to take on a greater role for Union in 2014-15, as the Dutchmen’s top two defensemen, Gostisbehere and Mat Bodie (NYR), signed pro contracts and will not return.
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