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This was Ray Shero's fifth draft as a general manager, and it was true to form. Shero has only selected three players who play in Europe with all his picks, and the North American trend continued this year as well. He continued to draft forwards early and defensemen late and hasn't put much emphasis on drafting goaltenders. The Pens loaded up on players from the Ontario Hockey League and U.S. colleges, which has also been their M.O.
Now let's look at who they drafted after first rounder Beau Bennett:
"Bryan Rust is the more complete package [than Bennett], the playoff type of performer that's going to be out there on the penalty kill and blocking shots but also chipping in with goals. His attention to detail is good." - Pens amateur scouting director Jay Heinbuck
Rust, at 5-foot-10 and 194 pounds, was one of the smallest players drafted in the entire weekend. He's a product of the U.S. Development Program that has produced so many good players over recent years. Rust will play at the University of Notre Dame next season, a well-regarded program that plays a very responsible and defensive-minded system. Given Heinbuck's quote, sounds like a great fit for Rust's style.
"In the long view, Kühnhackl has been compared to Marco Sturm in that he is fast, agile, possesses great acceleration and plays well in both zones. He's much larger than Sturm, and possesses more high-end skill." -Derek Zona (SB Nation blog Copper n Blue)
One of the more interesting picks, Küehnhackl will go from his native Germany to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL next season. His father is considered the best hockey player ever from Germany and the son appears to have a lot of skill as well. Küehnhackl definitely needs to fill out and gain strength. He also had a disappointing U-18 tournament in Slovakia, which is probably why he fell down to the fourth round.
"Skill package is excellent. His feet need to get a little quicker. He realizes that. But he brings that down low puck protection skill." - Jay Heinbuck
Agostino is from the same high school as Alex Velischek, last year's No. 5 pick. He's off to play at Yale and seems to be a guy that most fans won't think of for many years. Players in this range sometimes aren't even signed to professional contracts, so if he develops into getting signed by the Pens that'll show that he's improved some of his weaknesses.
Both described by Heinbuck as "very raw"
Both are about the same - defensemen from the Ontario Hockey League with good size and both were taken in the same round and have a similar outlook. In a few years we'll see if either progress enough to earn a professional contract and get to work their way up the Penguins organization. It's an uphill battle as a lower round draft pick, but the cream rises to the top.
It's safe to say that there's nothing safe about Beau Bennett, the Pittsburgh Penguins' first round draft pick.
Bennett, a right winger with the Penticton Vees, tied for the league lead in scoring in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) this past season with 41 goals and 79 assists for a total of 120 points. Bennett will be enrolling at the University of Denver this coming fall to play for coach George Gwozdecky and his Miners.
TSN's Bob McKenzie had Bennett ranked as the 18th best available player in the draft:
:Another native Californian, from Gardena, who could be the talk of the draft if he gets selected as high as some teams have him ranked. A true wild card, cited as everything from Top 10 overall to the late second round, he scored 120 points for Penticton of the BCJHL. Still physically immature, he could suffer from "weaker league" syndrome but he’s bound to be one of the really interesting stories of this draft.
Bennett is widely considered to be a serious offensive talent with speed, an excellent shot, solid vision and serious upside. However, the player is not without his detractors, and of all the players in the draft, his rankings really seemed to fluctuate the most, ranging from teams rating him near the top ten to near the bottom of the second round.
Two major factors have made scouts wary of his potential:
1) Size. Though some sites list him at 6-foot-1, and weighting upwards of 185 pounds, Bennett realistically weighs in at closer to 170, and will need to add some muscle in order to handle the rigors of the professional game. When asked about his weaknesses as a player, Bennett said,
I definitely need to work on my strength. Most of my weaknesses come from my strength and i need to really work on that in the offseason.
The positive to this is that Bennett has identified one of his serious flaws and intends to correct it. Bennett fully growing into his frame will go a long way to quelling major concerns about his size.
2) Fear of traffic. Bennett is sometimes viewed as a power play specialist (his 25 power play goals last season attest to that) who can only create with space on the perimeter, shying away from getting into the physical battles that are commonplace in the NHL. Though he considers himself to be a player who likes to go to the net to create offense, there are those who disagree:
His stick-to-the-perimeter act and struggles late in the playoffs were a big red flag for me. I had visions of Ivan Huml dancing in my head after that. But there might be only two or three guys in this draft that have better hands. Ultra high risk, high reward - either he turns into a 1st/2nd liner for you or takes his perimeter show to the European pro leagues for the rest of his career. If it got to about the 22-25 range and Howden was gone, I'd roll the dice on this guy.
Of course, it can be expected that if Bennett bulks up, he may develop the confidence to do dirty work.
Now, to backtrack a bit, small sentence in the middle of the above quote, however, is why Shero went with this pick:
Ultra high risk, high reward..
Ray Shero has shown a penchant for, as the title of this stream suggests, rolling the dice when it comes to the draft. Suggesting that Shero would take a player like John McFarland or Evgeny Kuznetsov in the first round, like we did in our initial post, was based on this idea that Shero would prefer to take the player with, in his eyes, the highest potential available than settle for a safe pick.
Though it will often be harped on, Angelo Esposito was byproduct of this mindset: The kid has the potential but who knows if he'll reach it?
In 2008, Shero didn't have much of a draft to work with, the first three picks being shipped off in deadline deals meant to help bolster the Penguins for eventual playoff runs (obviously good decisions). However, this lends credence to the thought that Shero's willing to gamble on his draft, neutering one to make a run at the Cup.
Patience will be required with Bennett as he looks to be a player who, based on his development in size and adaptation to more rigorous competition, may be a full three-four years out of the NHL,
To be fair to Bennett, he is widely regarded to possess good work ethic and is a devoted back checker...
Pittsburgh's top selection in the NHL Draft Beau Bennett (via videobyUSCHO)
... and, as in the previous interview, Bennett seems to know his weaknesses. You'd like to think that, unlike an Esposito or potentially McFarland (who managed to plummet out of the first round), Bennett's level of self-analysis and awareness could prove a boon in helping him maximize his considerable potential.
Shero appears to be taking the Adam Dunn route to management... swing for the fences or strike out. Hopefully, Bennett proves to be a home run.
The Pens have selected Californian right winger Beau Bennett with the 20th overall pick. I’ll leave the analysis to Stephen and Jimmy, but here's a good interview with Bennett, and here's a ton of detail on him. The basic idea seems to be that he's small, physically, and needs to continue to improve his strength, so he won't make his mark in the NHL for a while, but he has lots of upside. Here are some notes on Bennett from scouts. And here's some video:
From penguins.nhl.com comes a telling quote from Penguins General Manager Ray Shero that may indicate what direction the Penguins will go when they pick a player tonight:
"You are usually getting top skill in the first round," Shero said. "It is getting harder and harder to draft offensive guys late like Detroit did with Henrik Zetterberg. The top-end guys are going in the first round."
Shero selected defenseman Simon Despres in the first round last season, but his other first round picks (Jordan Staal and Angelo Esposito) have been forwards.
And there was also an interesting anecdote:
"History will show that when you draft goaltenders in the top-20, you never know how they are going to work out," Shero said. "Sometimes you'll have better luck in the third-through-fifth rounds developing goaltenders. It takes them a while."
Nobody knows this more so than Shero, who was with the Ottawa Senators in 1998 when they chose goaltender Mathieu Chouinard with the 15th-overall selection. At the time, the Ottawa brass was split between taking Chouinard and a skilled forward.
Chouinard ended up playing just one NHL game for the Los Angeles Kings while the forward went on to become a 40-goal scorer in the NHL.
"That is where you can run into problems when you try to draft for needs," Shero said. "We needed a goaltender in the organization."
In 1998 Simon Gagne (drafted by Philadelphia with the 22nd pick) was selected after Choinard and became a 40 goal scorer in the NHL. Later in the draft Jonathan Cheechoo was also a 40 goal scorer, but it's unlikely he was being considered with the 15th pick.
Hopefully this year there's better luck than Shero had in '98. Obviously there won't be a goalie in play for the first round pick, but it's likely the scouting staff may be debating drafting a stud or a bust.
The time for speculation is reaching its end as the 2010 NHL Entry Draft kicks off in a matter of hours at 7:00 PM Eastern / 4:00 PM Pacific. Keep an eye on this StoryStream throughout the draft, as Jimmy and I will be providing information and analysis on the draft, with a specific eye towards the Penguins.
In anticipation the draft, we've put together a few draft-related articles of interest with varying focuses to prepare you for today's event:
More Stuff from The Panthers at the NHL Draft. George Richards of the Miami Herald speculates that the Penguins may have something in the works for the Panthers' 15th overall pick. There aren't any specifics on the Pens beyond that.
Bob Mackenzie's Final Draft Rankings ranks players 1-75 on TSN.ca. Mackenzie's rankings are well-informed and generally on point.
2010 Mock Draft from TSN. Several TSN.ca analysts put together an interesting first round mock. They have the Penguins taking RW Austin Watson, their 14th ranked player.
Draft Picks Are Valuable Commodities In Today's NHL Landscape. PittsburghPenguins.com's Jason Siedling describes the increased value of prospects in today's cap-conscious NHL.
Wampum's Stephen Johns Hopes To Hear His Name Called At The NHL Draft. Siedling also profiles Stephen Johns, a native of Wampum, PA, 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, who looks as though he'll be a second round selection.
43 things you need to know about the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Here are some interesting facts on prospects from NHL.com.
NHL Draft: Russian players intrigue, have risks. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson speaks with Ray Shero, amongst others, about the risks and rewards of drafting Russians in a world with the KHL.
Buzzing the Net's NHL Draft Live Chat. Starting at noon, Yahoo!'s junior hockey blog will be running a live chat on the draft basically all day. Not for the faint of heart or those who enjoy the sun.
Puck Daddy. Greg Wyshynski's excellent hockey blog, also on Yahoo!, will have updates on the draft and free agency throughout the day for those who can't quite handle a ten hour live chat.
Edmonton Oilers still mulling over whom they'll choose with No. 1 Pick. ESPN.com's Scott Burnside delves into some of the intrigue swirling around the Oilers and the consensus first and second picks of the draft, Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall.
The NHL Draft is a bit of a crapshoot moreso than, say, the NFL or NBA Drafts. Beyond the first few picks, drafting is done with an eye towards three-to-five years from the date of acquisition. Most teams don't go into the draft looking to address an immediate need, since:
1) There are few players who help you immediately.
2) The players who can help you immediately are good enough that they will be drafted regardless of your positional needs: (see: Crosby, Doughty, Stamkos, Tavares, etc.).
Where the Penguins are drafting, and with a team that is already strong, you won't be drafting to fill in immediate needs like the team did when they moved up to grab Fleury. You're looking more to where there are holes in the farm system that will need filled. That being said, there are several directions that the organization could go.
Yesterday, I threw out a couple of names could be looked at as gambles - players coming off of disappointing seasons and possibly having other issues for a team to worry about. Today, I'll propose another name that might make some sense for the Penguins as a slight gamble from a different perspective: Stanislav Galiev.
The 6'1", 178-pound Russian winger finished fourth in scoring on a very strong Saint John Sea Dogs team that lost in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals this past season. Galiev finished the regular season with 15 goals and 45 assists, his assist total finishing second on the Sea Dogs.
If the Sea Dogs sound familiar to you, that's because they feature two current Penguins prospects, defenseman Simon Despres (1st Round, 2009) and winger Nicholas Peterson (4th Round, 2009). Surely, then, the Penguins should have seen plenty of Galiev over the course of the last two seasons.
Here is Galiev making a good run to the net to finish off a nice passing sequence before celebrating with Peterson and Despres:
Galiev is widely considered a player with considerable offensive upside and atypical Russian flair, though his streaky tendencies have left some scouts cold on his future.
TSN's generally reliable draft rankings have Galiev ranked 40th, which may make the Penguins reaching for him at 20th seem like the Pens are aiming a bit low for their position. However, as Adam Kimmelman told the Nashville Predators' official website, the first round may not be that much of a stretch for Galiev:
Stanislav Galiev from the Saint John Sea Dogs helped his team to the QMJHL Finals; that might have motivated a couple of teams to move him up a little on their draft boards – maybe into the second half of the first round.
...right about where the Penguins draft. Kimmelman touched on another item that may make him a more attractive pick than someone like Kuznetsov.
He’s an interesting story from the Russia standpoint. This is his second year in North America, so it’s not a case of a kid just coming over in his draft year; he more than any Russian player that I’ve seen has made a commitment to playing on this side of the Ocean. He played last year with Indiana in the USHL and now this year with Saint John (QMJHL), so I think of any of the Russian born players he’s the least likely to give teams pause.
So, whereas some teams may be worried about a player like Kuznetsov with a professional contract in Europe being unwilling to jump the pond, Galiev has already shown his desire to play in North America by coming over at a young age, especially compared to most Europeans.
And, get ready for this one... he can already speak English!
This is, as the title suggests, all speculation, but don't be surprised if the Penguins buck their historical trend of reaching for high-potential, volatile prospects in this portion of the draft, and instead bring in a kid who looks to have a bright future ahead of him at much less of a risk.
The 2010 NHL Entry Draft kicks off on Friday from the Staples Center in Los Angeles where the Pittsburgh Penguins will hope to begin rebuilding a somewhat-depleted farm system.
As with all drafts, the Pens' first round pick will be the key to their efforts. The 20th pick has historically held some gems, as the Penguins official website pointed out on Sunday. Current and future Hall of Famers such as Larry Robinson, Michel Goulet and Martin Brodeur have been found with the 20th pick while other luminaries such as Brian Sutter, Alexander Frolov, Brent Burns, Travis Zajac Michael Del Zotto, and the wonderfully named Jim Playfair were also picked 20th.
Hockey's Future has the Penguins drafting Brock Nelson, a strong power forward with potential as a finisher. Wes Goldstein at CBS Sports has the Penguins taking defenseman Mark Pysyk with the pick. Another possibility is John McFarland, a speedy winger with a serious wrist shot who was once projected as a top five pick. McFarland's shot and obvious speed are on display here, via nhldraftvideo:
Another intriguing pick may be Evgeny Kuznetsov, a player who's widely considered to have top-end talent, but has scared many draft analysts because he's currently contracted to Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL, creating the possibility of a holdout, and has been branded with the stereotypical "enigmatic Russian" stamp. In this clip, via videoKHL, Kuznetsov shows patience to pick his spot on his first professional goal:
In 2007, the Penguins also held the 20th overall pick, the only other time the club picked at this spot in its 43-year history, and took Angelo Esposito, who had a similar resume to McFarland's and Kuznetsov's. Esposito was a skilled winger whose stock dropped heavily before the draft due to concerns about his maturity and attitude. The Penguins eventually shipped him off to Atlanta in the Marian Hossa deal. Esposito, 21, has thus far put up a total of four points in 13 career games above junior hockey, with the AHL's Chicago Wolves.
A better indication of the rewards and hazards to be found at the 20 spot can be found by looking at the Penguins' draft history around that position, where gems such as Brooks Orpik at No. 18 in 2000, Colby Armstrong at 21 in 2001, Aleksey Morozov at 24 in 1995 and Martin Straka at 19 in 1992 showed that good talent can be found at that portion of the first round. On the flip side, though, few fans can forget the fearsome foursome of Craig Hillier at No. 23 in 1996, Robert Dome at 17 in 1997, Milan Kraft at 23 in 1998 and Konstantin Koltsov at 18 in 1999 helped solidify the Penguins' reputation as a poorly drafting organization.
The question is, now that the Penguins' strong drafts of the early-to-mid-2000s have yielded most of the fruits that they could possibly bare, can Ray Shero restock the system and prove that the Penguins have migrated out of the dark ages? Or have we seen the best that is to come from the farm system for the foreseeable future?
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