Penguins 2008 draft preview

By Kevin Hopson

Top 10 prospects

1. Alex Goligoski, D
2. Tyler Kennedy, C
3. Keven Veilleux, C
4. Carl Sneep, D
5. Brian Strait, D
6. Luca Caputi, LW
7. Dustin Jeffrey, C
8. John Curry, G
9. Jonathan Filewich, RW
10. Ryan Stone, C

Team Needs

Because several of its forwards are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, Pittsburgh should primarily be concerned with filling these holes this summer. Right winger Petr Sykora is the only non-center who is under contract next season, which means Pittsburgh has a lot of negotiating to do during the off-season. Marian Hossa will likely be a top priority, as he was a key component in Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup run this past season. If Pittsburgh is successful in re-signing him, then the Crosby-Hossa combination will remain intact. 

With goaltender Ty Conklin set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Penguins electing to file for salary arbitration with Marc-Andre Fleury, goaltending is up in the air. However, it is likely that Pittsburgh will iron out a long-term contract with Fleury prior to his arbitration hearing. Either way, the ball is in Pittsburgh’s court with him. Conklin played well last season, as he posted a 2.51 GAA and was second in the league in save percentage (.923). Fortunately, the Penguins appear to have a capable backup in Dany Sabourin should Conklin decide to go elsewhere. The bulk of Pittsburgh’s defensive corps is expected to be back next season. 

Organizational Strengths

Though Pittsburgh lacks top-line center prospects, the organization is deep with potential third and fourth-line players. Top center prospect Tyler Kennedy has already proven to be a reliable pivot at the NHL level, as he put up respectable numbers during the 2007-08 season. Meanwhile, Keven Veilleux, who recently signed a three-year entry-level contract with Pittsburgh, is coming off his best season in the QMJHL

In addition to being deep down the middle, Pittsburgh has a great pool of offensive defensemen. Alex Goligoski, who tops the Penguins’ prospect list, had a fantastic year with Wilkes-Barre, especially in the playoffs.

Though not as talented as Goligoski, Boston College player Carl Sneep is still considered to be one of Pittsburgh’s top defensive prospects. Though his numbers are huge, he is considered a puckmover.

Organizational Weaknesses

Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness is its lack of depth on the left side. One of only two left wing prospects in the organization, Luca Caputi shows potential. Given Pittsburgh’s plethora of play-making centers and Caputi’s power forward skills, he could be a successful contributor. Unfortunately, outside of Caputi and University of Minnesota-Duluth player Michael Gergen, the left wing cupboard is empty.

Despite being stocked with an abundance of puck-moving defensemen, the organization is in need of some top-line stay-at-home defensemen. Though blueliners like Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo, Ryan Lannon and Paul Bissonnette all bring a physical presence and a defense-first mentality to the game, none of them will likely be a top pairing defenseman in the NHL.

Draft Tendencies

Pittsburgh seems to have an infatuation for Canadian players. Though the organization sometimes shows interest in U.S. or foreign prospects, the bulk of Pittsburgh’s draft picks the last several years have come from Canadian junior leagues. Overseas players, if taken, are typically drafted in the later rounds unless they happen to be an elite prospect, such as Evgeni Malkin. Also, Pittsburgh hasn’t recently take a defenseman with its first overall pick. Offense has been the organization’s top priority, as evident by today’s high-flying Penguins team.