Insider Only Daily 5: Pirates smart to key on position players in draft, Lightning resemble Penguins of past, Impact of elite No. 1 d-men & more


*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*

1. The talk of the Pirates zeroing in high school prep pitchers with the No. 19 pick was nothing more than a smoke screen as the Pirates went infield heavy with their  first three selections of the 2015 MLB draft, (SS) Kevin Newman at No. 19 , (3B) Ke’Bryan Hayes at No. 32 and (SS/2B) Kevin Kramer at No. 62.
The Pirates in the third round today took Alabama outfielder Casey Hughston before taking their first pitcher of the draft in the fourth round (No. 127) in selecting Jacob Taylor who had been an outfielder until late in the 2014 season where he emerged as one of the better throwing pitchers in the Alabama/Louisiana/Mississippi area.
The Pirates focusing on position players has become the new trend after taking Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in 2013 and Cole Tucker last year.
It’s the much safer route to go.
Huntington’s fixation on prep pitchers that he had early in his career as GM has softened due to studies the Pirates have done that have proved the risks (medical reasons) there are in taking prep pitchers.
If the Pirates could do a re-do, Chris Sale would have been their guy in the 2010 draft when there was a ton of support to go in that direction from their scouts.

DRAFT2. Keith Law had Kevin Newman ranked as the No. 2 player on his board and obviously Law loved the Pirates pick in getting Newman at No. 19.

[“Second on my board, Newman is a plus runner and true shortstop with a great swing that has made him one of the toughest hitters to strike out in Division I”.]
Law notes even if Newman only hits around 5 homers a season, he still projects to be a pretty good player and if the Pirates close his stance a little bit and get him a handful of additional homers, he’s a fringe star.
Law wasn’t the only one who loved what the Pirates did in the first round.

Baseball Prospectus also raved about the Pirates first two picks.

3. The Tampa Bay Lightning went into Chicago with a hobbled Ben Bishop and took Game 3 with a 3-2 win. They don’t have the star power down the middle that the Penguins had, especially with Steven Stamkos now playing the wing, but the Lightning right now remind me of the 07-08 and 08-09 Penguins in what you could call the Crosby era glory days for now where they have three lines that can beat you on any given night, turn momentum in a blink of an eye with timely scoring and a quick strike ability, and nothing seems to phase them. They don’t have a care in the world and don’t let anything get to them. That was the Penguins for a very short stint.

4. One thing the NHL playoffs continues to prove for the last several seasons is that an elite No. 1 defenseman who can do it all is more important than having a great goaltender in the post-season. Just look at the last four Stanley Cup winners, they all had that special type of defenseman who can dominate a series, Chicago with Duncan Keith, Boston with Zdeno Chara when they won, Drew Doughty with the Kings and Victor Hedman is proving again how having that element goes a big way to potentially putting you over the top.
Hedman’s play in the Stanley Cup Final has been sensational and he reminds me so much of Chris Pronger in the way he controls the game.
There’s only 5-6 of these guys (True elite No. 1 defensemen) in the league right now and at least one of them often ends up in the Cup Final. This year we have two going to head-to-head with Hedman and Keith, and through three games, Hedman has been the bigger difference maker.
Going back to the 2004-2005 lockout, there’s only been two teams to win the Stanley Cup since that span, Carolina and Pittsburgh without having that elite No. 1 franchise defenseman on the backend.
Prior to 2010 , Anaheim had it with Chris Pronger, Detroit with Lidstrom.
For the Penguins when you get up and down goaltending in the playoffs like they often do, they’ve lacked that element of having a defenseman like Hedman, Doughty, or Keith who goes out and dominates a series and does it for multiple rounds. That’s one thing that has been missing from Kris Letang’s resume because the ability is there. Maybe this year was finally going to be the year  but until Letang goes out and puts it all together for an entire post-season like the names above, he should continue to be regarded as a very good No. 2 defenseman in this league, not an elite No. 1 d-man. That characterization should be left to the Doughty’s, Keith’s and Hedman’s for now.

5. Todd Nelson has emerged as a top target from the Penguins end to replace John Hynes. Nelson has a potential opportunity to return to Edmonton as an assistant coach, though, that might be awkward and has three years left on his deal, but the Wilkes Barre job is attractive to him I’m told and it should be. It’s going to be his job if he wants it. Nelson models a lot of what he does after Barry Trotz.
Mike Johnston will enter year two with significant pressure on him and being one of the NHL’s lowest paid coaches, to go with the Penguins getting Dan Bylsma’s $2.3 million salary off the books, Johnston will be on a short-leash.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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