Penguins 2004 draft preview

By Tim Seaman

Penguins Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan Whitney, D
2. Noah Welch, D
3. Sergei Anshakov, RW
4. Colby Armstrong, RW
5. Matt Murley, LW
6. Maxime Talbot, C
7. Ben Eaves, C
8. Michel Ouellet, RW
9. Michal Sivek, C
10. Patrick Bartschi, C

Team Needs

The Penguins have one of the deepest groups of young players and prospects in the entire NHL, and that group will only get deeper as the Penguins have the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft. The organization’s biggest weakness is the lack of high end scoring prospects at the forward position. They should be able to nab such a player with the second pick and possibly another skilled player with the 31st pick. The Penguins have some of the best defensive prospects in the league, but it can be argued that they don’t have a true No. 1 defenseman in their system.

Organizational Strengths

Pittsburgh has excellent depth at every position. In goal, the Penguins have Marc-Andre Fleury, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 entry draft, Andy Chiodo, Sebastien Caron and Bobby Geopfert previously of Providence College and Tomas Duba in Europe. There is absolutely no reason for them to use a pick on another goalie this year. On defense, Pittsburgh has a nice mix of skill guys and stay at home players. Ryan Whitney, fifth overall in 2002, Noah Welch, Paul Bissonnette, Rob Scuderi and Daniel Fernholm all seem to be two to three years away from making the team, while Brooks Orpik, Josef Melichar and Michal Rozsival are already in Pittsburgh. Up front the Penguins are deep with checking line forwards and character guys. This group is highlighted by Colby Armstrong, Max Talbot, Michal Sivek and Ryan Stone.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Penguins lack blue chip offensive prospects. Of all the Penguins offensive-oriented forwards, none seem to be a sure thing. Sergei Anshakov and Matt Murley were selected in the second round of the 2002 and 1999 drafts respectively, but of their other top prospects, Ben Eaves, Patrik Bartschi, Michel Ouellet and Matt Moulson, none was selected higher than the fourth round. Not that draft position always predicts success, but if a team wants a game breaking forward, they are more likely to find one at the beginning of the draft. Even if the Penguins select Evgeni Malkin, a playmaker, who is arguably the best playmaker in the draft, they’ll still need to try to get some pure goal scorers later on as well.

Draft Tendencies

Since 2000, the Penguins have drafted 41 players total. This breaks down to 8 goalies, 12 defensemen, and 21 forwards. 31 of those players have hailed from North America (18 Canadian/13 American) and 10 from Europe. The Penguins are rebuilding, and this is their second ‘official’ draft in doing so. Last year they selected their future starting goaltender and a lot of grit/depth players. In 2002 and 2001 the Penguins took defensemen with three of their first four picks in addition to making Orpik their first selection in 2000. It seems that the Penguins will draft for high offensive upside this year, preferably looking for goal scorers to compliment Malkin’s playmaking abilities. With so many “safe” players in the Penguins system, look for them to draft a project player or two as well.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result):
Evgeni Malkin, C