Penguins 2007 draft preview

By Jason Seidling

Penguins Top 10 prospects

1. Kristopher Letang, D
2. Alex Goligoski, D
3. Jonathan Filewich, RW
4. Ryan Stone, C
5. Carl Sneep, D
6. Tyler Kennedy, C
7. Bobby Goepfert, G
8. David Brown, G
9. Brian Strait, D
10. Ryan Lannon, D

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be selecting outside of the top five for the first time since 2001 when they make the 20th selection of the 2007 NHL Draft. The Penguins will be making seven selections this year, with one in each of the first three rounds, two in the fourth round, and one in each of the fifth and sixth rounds. The Penguins do not own a seventh-round pick.

The Picks
1st round, 20th overall
2nd round, 51st overall
3rd round, 80th overall
4th round, 111th overall
4th round, 118th overall
5th round, 141st overall
6th round, 171st overall

Team Needs

A couple of goal scorers to play on the wing and two top-six defensemen highlight the Penguins list of needs. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Erik Christensen and Maxime Talbot down the middle, one of GM Ray Shero’s greatest tasks will be finding enough capable goal scorers to play with his talented centers. Depth on the wing will be improved greatly if Shero is able to bring back one or both of unrestricted free agents Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts.

Improved depth on the blue line is another chore that Shero will have to tend to during the draft and throughout the summer. Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney, Brooks Orpik and Mark Eaton have four of the spots locked down, and Kristopher Letang appears poised to capture one of the three remaining openings. Another rugged veteran who can also kill penalties and a solid all-around type who can move the puck on the breakout headline the wish list. If one or both of those players were a right-handed shot, it would really help to balance out the blue line.

Finally, the Penguins could be in the market for a new backup goaltender. Jocelyn Thibault, Marc-Andre Fleury’s partner this past season, is a free agent, and his improved play in the second half of the season might prompt some teams to offer him a chance at a starting gig. If that happens, the Pens will be looking for a veteran to come in for a decent price and make about 20-25 starts.

Organizational Strengths

The strengths of the big club continue in the prospect pool. With Ryan Stone and Tyler Kennedy contributing at the AHL level, the Pens are very deep at the center position.

Another area where the organization is deep, although not so much at the NHL level, is on defense. As mentioned above, Letang is set to join Ryan Whitney and Brooks Orpik as youngsters playing on the backline. University of Minnesota rearguard Alex Goligoski will also be contemplating turning pro this season after spending last season with the Golden Gophers. Finally, three of the Penguins five selections last June were defensemen, including second-rounder Carl Sneep, third-rounder Brian Strait and seventh-rounder Timo Seppanen.

Finally, if the Penguins are able to sign Hobey Baker finalists Bobby Goepfert and David Brown, the Penguins will have better depth than most teams in goal. Marc-Andre Fleury only turns 23 in November, so the position appears to be locked up for the foreseeable future, but depth at such a crucial position is never a bad thing.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Penguins do not have a plethora of goal scorers in their system. Jonathan Filewich led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in goal scoring this past season, but he is the only legitimate scorer that the Penguins have close to competing for a job at the NHL level. Recent second-round selections Michael Gergen and Johannes Salmonsson have not developed as well as management would have liked.

A couple of other areas where the organization would stand to improve are in finding a couple of centermen who excel on face-offs and getting more right-handed shots into the organization. The Penguins struggled all year on face-offs, although their young centers did show improvement in the second half of the season. A dearth of right-handed shots stuck out most on power plays and when the defensemen were attempting to break out of the zone. A right-handed shot would make Crosby all the more dangerous on the power play and an infusion of right-handed defensemen would help the Penguins get out of their zone more efficiently.

Draft Tendencies

This will be the first draft together for Shero and his Director of Amateur Scouting Jay Heinbuck. Last year the Penguins used three of their five selections on defensemen, although Shero was quick to state that the Penguins were simply choosing the best player available for each pick, and both he and Heinbuck have stated that the same philosophy will be in practice for the 2007 draft.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Result: Colton Gillies, C (Saskatoon)

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