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?