Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Preview

By Erik Johnson

It’s possible that the 2001 draft could be the start of a new era for the Pens (along with the continuation of an “old” era). It’s likely that the Pens will part with 4 time scoring camp and 2 time Cup winner Jaromir Jagr this summer and it’s possible that could come before (or during) the draft. In any event, the Pens will need to find that groups of prospect that will lead them to as successful of a decade as the one that just past. It won’t be easy for GM Craig Patrick, but he’s dealth with adversity well before and there is no reason to believe that he won’t make a successful post-Jagr transition.

Pens Draft Strategy

As with most teams, the Pens will draft the best player on the board in the first round, as their usual philosphy. The Pens draft table is a democracy, with GM Patrick and head scout Greg Malone at the head of that table. European scout Mark Kelly has a lot of influence in the decision making process and the Pens picks usually reflect that.

Recent Draft History

Last year was one of the few times in Patrick’s tenure that the Pens spent their first round pick on a North American born player. 4 of the 5 previous picks were used to select skilled European forwards. After the first round, the Pens generally select players to fill specific needs, all with a general theme. In 1997, the Pens spent 6 of their final 8 picks on defensemen. In 1998, 6 of 9 were forwards. 199 was a bit of a mix of players. They added depth to a number of positions. And finally last year, they spent most of their picks on tough gritty forwards. According to numerous reports, this year the Pens plan on focusing their post-1st round picks on shoring up their defensive corps in the prospect ranks.

What to look for on Saturday

This is actually a difficult question to answer, as there are 3 possible scenarios. One, the Pens could trade Jagr and get a high pick (Top 10) in return. Second, the Pens could trade Jagr, not get a high pick, but get players in return that would alter their draft board slighly. Finally, the Pens don’t trade Jagr before the draft and make their 21st selection.

At one point, the first scenario had some merit, but it looks as though the Pens will not get a high draft pick for Jagr. As well, it doesn’t look that the Pens will get someone significant enough to drastically alter their draft plans. That being said, here are a list of players that could be ripe for the picking when the Pens draft at 21.

Lukas Krajicek, D Czech Rep
– Would definitely fill a need for the Pens on the blueline as a primarily offensive minded defenseman. He’s not physical, but the Pens could address those concerns later in the draft.

Igor Knyazev, D Russia
– A steadier 2-way defenseman that could be ready for the NHL in short order.

Jeff Woywitka, D Red Deer
– Steady defensive defenseman. One of the safer picks in the first round. He does a lot of things well, but not a standout at any of them.

Mark Popovic, D St Mike’s
– Similar to Knyazev. Solid 2-way defenseman that is a safe pick in the mid-first round.

Fedor Tyutin, D Russia
– Another solid 2-way defenseman that, at times, struggles to make an impression.

A look back at the last 4 drafts

First pick- Brooks Orpik, D Boston College
– Punishing defensive defenseman who was recently named as co-winner of the most improved player at BC. Selected to be an alternate caption on next year’s Eagle team, so he’ll likely finish out his college career before turning pro.

Best pick- Peter Hamerlik, G 3rd Round
– Hamerlik was projected as a high pick after the 1999 season, but injuries and inconsistant play dropped him to the 3rd Round. Hamerlik rebounded with a solid rookie year with the Kingston Frontanacs.

First Pick- Konstantin Koltsov, F Belarus
– Has struggled at times to find a consistancy in his game with AK Bars of the Russian Superleague, yet has shined in international play with little support for Belarus.

Best Pick- Sebastian Caron, G 3rd Round
– Caron wasn’t highly rated, yet went on to win the Memorial Cup in 2000. e was also named top goalie in the tourney that included top 10 pick Brian Finley, Kings prospect Alexei Volkov, and top rated 2001 draftee Dan Blackburn. Struggled at times in his pro debut, but the Pens have high hopes for him.

First Pick- Milan Kraft, C Czech Rep
– Has emerged as the Pens top prospect and one of the top prospects in the NHL. Split time during the regular season and the playoffs between the NHL and AHL. Was the top scorer in the AHL playoffs before being recalled by the Pens.

Best pick- Kraft

First Pick- Robert Dome, F Las Vegas (vis Slovakia)
– Dome was a wild card pick in the 1997 draft. He was considered one of the best prospects in the draft as early as 1995, but his stint in the IHL dropped his draft stock in 1997. Dome has struggled with maturity and has failed to make an impact with the Pens in any of his 3 seasons with the team. Spent the past season playing in Europe.

Best Pick- Andrew Ference, D 8th Round
– Smallish, yet physical defenseman that has jumped to the top of the Pens plans in recent seasons. Split the season between the NHL and AHL, but proved he deserves a regular NHL spot with his play down the stretch and in the playoffs with the Pens. A steal in the 8th Round.