With six picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted four offensively gifted forwards and two defensemen with size. All are scheduled to play in either the Canadian major junior circuit or NCAA.
Beau Bennett, RW – Penticton (BCHL)
Drafted: 1st Round, 20th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 172 lbs
As the highest drafted California born-and-trained player in NHL history, Beau Bennett was among the more popular people to talk to at the draft.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bennett said to the general media, “Just having friends and family here is an unreal experience. It also shows that hockey interest is growing in California. It’s coming west and it’s been fun.”
Bennett fills an organizational need as a dynamic forward who could compliment Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. The 18-year-old forward was in fact so coveted by the organization, they attempted to trade up in the draft to secure his rights. Bennett was candid on what he brings to the Penguins organization.
“They like my offense. I definitely bring some creativity to the game. I can create from either the right side or the left side. I definitely need to work on some things as well, such as my defensive play and my strength.”
In one season playing in the BCHL for Penticton, Bennett posted a league-leading 120 points in 56 games, including 41 goals. He was also second in the league with 25 goals on the man-advantage.
Scheduled to attend the University of Denver in the fall, Bennett should be considered a long-term project at this point in his hockey career.
“DU encompasses all that I looked for in Penticton as well – a good team and great guys. They also have great coaching and it’s being in a big city. So I look forward to taking that next step in my career”
Headed to Notre Dame in the fall, Bryan Rust brings a similar package to the Penguins as first-round pick Beau Bennett. He is can create and finish scoring chances, play all forward positions, and is fairly solid in his own end. The 18-year-old Rust is also a disciplined player who rarely takes penalties.
In the IIHF U18 tournament for the United States, Rust posted four goals, two assists, and a plus-four rating in seven games. While playing for U.S. National Development Team, the forward posted 10 goals and 13 assists through 27 games.
Rust does need to get physically stronger if he hopes to compete at the professional level. To this point in his career he has relied heavily on his ability to outplay opponents.
Tom Kuehnhackl, RW – Landshut (Ger2)
Drafted: 4th Round, 110th Overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 172lbs
One of the most intriguing among the Penguins picks has to be German forward Tom Kuehnhackl. Son of Erich Kuehnhackl, who is considered to be one of the greatest German players of all time, Tom will be taking his game to North America for 2010-11, lacing up for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Originally scheduled to play in the OHL in 2009-10, he opted to stay home and play for the Landshut Cannibals of the German 2.Bundesliga. In a season where he suffered through a separated shoulder, sporadic ice-time, and inexperienced linemates, the forward posted 12 goals and nine assists in 38 games.
It is safe to say Kuehnhackl has the offensive ability to develop into a possible scoring threat for the Penguins, it is just a matter of him realizing that potential. There is also the matter of his game properly transitioning to the smaller North American ice surface. He has the size and personality but needs to fill out physically if he hopes to make an impact.
Ken Agostino, LW – Delbarton (High-NJ)
Drafted: 5th Round, 140th Overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 190 lbs
Known best for his poise with the puck and offensive creativity, the 18-year-old is also considered to be far ahead of the curve when it comes to the defensive side of the game. In his last season with the Delbarton Green Wave, Agostino posted 50 goals, 33 assists, and 40 penalty minutes in 27 games.
In his four years with the program, he posted a school record of 247 points. More impressive though is Delbarton’s record during that time as the Green Wave went 103-7-5.
Scheduled to attend Yale in the fall, the forwards biggest obstacle is how he needs to develop physically. Slightly undersized, Agostino needs to strengthen both his upper and lower body if he hopes to compete at the professional level.
Joe Rogalski was drafted because he brings two things to the Penguins organization they can not get enough of: size and puck-moving ability.
The top-scoring defenseman in 2009-10 for the Sarnia Sting, Rogalski posted a respectable six goals and 23 assists through 66 games. Not so respectable however was the team-worst minus-38 he tied for.
Sarnia was the second lowest scoring offense in the OHL last season and as their top defenseman, Rogalski was often overburdened with responsibilities. Although his circumstances make his potential hard to project, the 18-year-old looks to have the skill-set of a middle or bottom-pairing defenseman.
The final pick for the Penguins was Reid McNeill, another defenseman who brings size to the organization. The 18-year-old is a prototypical bottom-pairing defensive defenseman. He has a clearly established role with the London Knights as a defensive defenseman, understands his role with the team, and does not play beyond his abilities. He is also capable of chipping in on the penalty kill and shutting down opponent’s top forwards.
In 53 games with the Knights, McNeill posted two goals, three assists, 32 penalty minutes, and a plus-11.