Penguins 2010 draft preview

By Ian Altenbaugh

Top 10 prospects

1. Eric Tangradi, LW
2. Simon Despres, D
3. Dustin Jeffrey, C/W
4. Brian Strait, D
5. Ben Hanowski, LW
6. Carl Sneep, D
7. Nick Johnson, RW
8. Robert Bortuzzo, D
9. Casey Pierro-Zabotel, C
10. Alex Velischek, D

The Penguins hold the 20th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Team Needs

Although the knee-jerk reaction is to say the Penguins are in need of a marquee winger to play alongside Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, the more immediate concern the team showed over the regular season and playoffs was the lack of a big-bodied shutdown defenseman. Opponents were too often allowed unimpeded in the Penguins zone and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease was too often filled with bodies.

The Penguins have almost $46 million committed to 16 players next season and only three of them are defensemen with more than a season of NHL experience. Also, defensive stalwart and power-play quarterback Sergei Gonchar is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and whether or not he re-signs with the organization, young defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski will be expected to increase their offensive contributions. Two-way defenseman Ben Lovejoy will likely make the roster next season but the Penguins will most assuredly address their immediate needs on defense through free agency.

That said, the Penguins do need at least two top-six wingers to fill out their roster.

Organizational Strengths

The Penguins needs could be all be met as soon as two years from now. Eric Tangradi, Nick Petersen, Dustin Jeffrey, and Ben Hanowski all have the makeup of a player who can be a top-six contributor. All three simply need more time to develop and polish their game as well as mature physically.

Likewise defensemen Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, who already make an effective shutdown pairing for the Penguins AHL affiliate, have the look of the exact type of defensive defensemen the NHL team was starved for in 2009-10. They could be ready to contribute in a call-up situation as soon as 2010-11.

Other defensemen, such as Philip Samuelsson, Simon Despres, Nick D’Agostino, and Alex Velischek, are still many years away but also have the potential to be NHL contributors.

There is also a good depth at goaltender with Brad Thiessen, Patrick Killeen, and Alexander Pechurski, all of whom had breakout 2009-10 seasons. The Penguins also recently acquired and signed Swedish goaltender Mattias Modig.

Organizational Weaknesses

There is not a great deal of high-end talent in the Penguins system. Tangradi and Despres among others have the potential to be major contributors but are all still a few years away. Many players such as Joey Haddad and Jon D’Aversa have limited upside and will likely never be full-time NHL contributors.

Some prospects such as Nick Johnson and Joe Vitale, while close to being NHL ready, have limited offensive ability.

Draft Tendencies

Although it may sound cliché, the Penguins actually do draft the best available player on their draft board. However, the view the organization may have on certain prospects often differs from the majority view. For example, they drafted Samuelsson, a defenseman not on many teams’ radars, in the second round.

If there is any definitive tendency, it is that the organization shies away from drafting European prospects. They have selected only three in the past four drafts, none before the fifth round.

The Penguins own the 20th, 80th, 110th, 140th, 152nd, 170th, and 200th pick in the draft. The organization traded the 50th pick to the Panthers for Jordan Leopold and picked up at the 152nd from the Maple Leafs for prospect Chris Peluso. They also possess two conditional picks, one in the sixth and another in the seventh.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result
at No. 20: Brock Nelson

The forward who played at Warroad High School in Minnesota brings a good blend of size and scoring acumen to a team that lacks both up front. He is committed to playing at the University of North Dakota in 2010-11.