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Insider Only Scouts Buzz: 10 Forwards to watch for Pens at No. 23

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with five selections, including the 23rd-overall pick in the first round. The 2011 draft will be held Friday, June 24 (Round 1) and Saturday, June 25 (Rounds 2-7) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.
Round 1 will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday and will be nationally televised by VERSUS. The NHL Network will carry Rounds 2-7 on Saturday, with coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
Along with their first-round pick, the Penguins have picks in the second round (54th overall), fifth round (144th), sixth round (174th) and seventh round (209th).
Pittsburgh acquired its seventh-round selection from the San Jose Sharks at last year’s draft in exchange for the Penguins’ 2010 seventh-round pick.
Under GM Ray Shero, the Penguins philosophy is to take the best player available no matter what position. They are not a team that drafts based on need as NHL players take years to develop. They also see trade value down the road in first rounders, which also won’t keep them away from drafting a defenseman or center.
However, a good bet is that the Penguins draft a winger in the first round.
Adding a natural gifted goal scoring winger to the system should be a top priority and the Penguins are a team where they should consider taking some risk with a high upside offensive player who might be a raw prospect or whose overall game has some concerns.
That type of player though isn’t always considered a fit with Penguin scouts.
This is a draft where players all over the board, especially in the 15-30 range. It’s also a draft that isn’t considered strong by any means.
This the year to lose a third round pick like the Penguins did last June in acquiring the rights to Dan Hamhuis.
Here are 10 forwards to watch for the Penguins (in no particular order) that are believed to be of interest and projected to go in the 17-30 range.

Scouts see Puempel as a fit for Pens at No. 23

Matthew Puempel
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 200
Position: Left Wing | Stats: 55 GP – 34 G – 35 A – 69 PTS
Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Ranking: No. 28 NHL Central Scouting (NAS), No. 28, TSN
Scouting Report
One name scouts are raving about as a fit with Pittsburgh at No. 23 is Peterborough Petes left winger Matthew Puempel (6-0, 200, No. 28 Central Scouting).
Puempel is regarded as one of the best pure goal scorers in the draft and is extremely gifted offensively.
He scored 33 goals as a rookie in 2009-2010 and had 34 goals in 55 games last season before suffering a hip injury in February that has hurt his stock.
“Without the other factors in play, the kid is a top-15 talent and one of the most gifted goal scorers, ” an amateur scout on the condition of anonymity told Inside Pittsburgh Sports.com.
The scout indicated that Pittsburgh doesn’t have a player in their system that comes close to Puempel’s natural goal scoring ability.
Scouts indicate from a goal scoring prowess, there also isn’t a better player than Puempel that would be available at No. 23. Puempel’s overall game though, doesn’t round out as nicely as others who figure to be available and he’s not an extremely safe pick.

Saint John/ Pens Connection

Zack Phillips
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 181 lbs
Position: Center | Stats: 67 GP – 38 G – 57 A – 95 PTS
Team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Ranking: No. 15 NHL Central Scouting (NAS), No. 28 TSN
Tomas Jurco
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 193 lbs
Position: RW | Stats: 60 GP – 31 goals – 24 A – 56 PTS
Team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Ranking: No. 20 Central Scouting (NAS), No. 29 TSN
Scouting Report
The Penguins/Saint John’s connection has been evident past couple years and two forwards of interest include centerman Zack Phillips and skilled winger Tomas Jurco.
Saint John Sea Dogs assistant coach Marc Hussey on Phillips: “Good playmaker, see’s the ice extremely well, ” Hussey told Inside Pittsburgh Sports.
“Very crafty on the power play and what I like about his game is that he likes to challenge defensemen.”
“He’s deceiving fast and gets everybody watching, ” Hussey said.
A scouting report from TSN’s top 60 draft rankings called Phillips skating ability a weakness: “skating is the issue, a one-speed guy, needs to work get stronger, and work on his first step, ” TSN Scout Grant McCagg wrote.
Hussey didn’t necessarily agree with that.
“Seeing him in practice as I do, I see it a little bit differently, ” Hussey said. “He has a fairly good skating stride and what he needs to work on is different speeds.
Phillips has played some wing in the “Q” but he’s viewed as more of a natural centerman.
“He played a little bit of wing last year, ” Hussey said. “Think the way he moves the puck, he’s a pretty good fit at center. Dishes the puck so well”.
Hussey on Tomas Jurco: “Amazing amount of skill, ” Hussey said. “I’ve been around this game for a long time and I haven’t seen too many players with his type of skill. Puckhandling skill is unbelievable, ” Hussey said.
The biggest knock on Jurco as it is with many young players is consistency and being able to bring it every night. That was an issue for Jurco this season at Saint John’s but for young players that is often over-rated.
However, he has star potential which makes him a very intriguing player going into Friday’s first round.
“In the Memorial Cup he was outstanding and it seems to have really rejuvenated his stock into the first round discussions, ” Hussey said.

Pittsburgh’s Sadd or Miller could be selections at No. 23

J.T. Miller
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 198
Position: Center | Stats: 56 GP – 15 G – 35A – 50 PTS
2010-11 Team: USA U-18 (USHL)
Ranking: No. 23 NHL Central Scouting (NAS), No. 18 TSN
Brandon Saad
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 210
Position: Left Wing | Stats: 59 GP – 27 G – 28 A – 55 PTS
2010-11 Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Ranking: No. 19 NHL Central Scouting (NAS), No. 22 TSN
Scouting Report
Brandon Saad Emerged as a top-10 pick going into the season but he never met expectations and his stock has dropped considerably.
Concerns have mounted due to a lack of passion, inconsistencies and the inability to bring it on a nightly basis.
Scouts felt he should have been a dominant force in the OHL this season. However, if he falls into the 20’s, he would be excellent value, especially for the Penguins at No. 23.
Saad has excellent physicals tools and the skill set where he has the potential to be a top-6 power forward at the NHL level.
Meanwhile, J.T. Miller has surpassed Saad on many draft boards but he doesn’t have the upside that Saad has which is why I would still go in Saad’s direction.
Miller is more of a safer pick. He’s intriguing to GM’s because of his fundamentals and versatility to play wing and center.
Some red flags is his skill set and which has some scouts projecting him as a third liner.
The next five forwards I will profile is: (waiting for a few calls back. Will have them updated by the end of the night, regardless.

Rugged forward Biggs on Pens wishlist

Tyler Biggs
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 210 lbs
Position: RW | Stats: 55 GP, 19 G – 12 A – 31 PTS
Team: USA U-18 League (USHL)
Rankings: No. 22 NHL Central Scouting, No. 15 TSN
Scouting Report
The rugged forward is rising fast on draft boards and could find himself picked in the mid-first round. The Penguins are said to be hopeful that he falls as Biggs is believed to be one of their primary targets.
“He’s big, and he can skate,” Heinbuck said. “He’s just tough as nails, and he can play. He’s one of many strong Americans in this group, ” director of scouting Jay Heinbuck said, via Tribune-Review.
Biggs is an intimidating force but some red flags in his projection is limited offensive upside, according to some scouts.

Rattie a “raw” prospect but has Beau Bennett type skill set

Ty Rattie
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 170 lbs
Position: RW | Stats: 67 GP – 28 G – 51 A – 79 PTS
Team: Portland Winterhawks League (WHL)
Ranking: No. 17 NHL Central Scouting, No. 26 TSN
Scouting Report
Rattie reminds scouts of Beau Bennett which is why some around the league see the Penguins drawn to Rattie.
He’s a skilled winger with top-6 forward talents and is extremely creative in the playmaking department.
“He has some similarities to the Bennett kid, ” a scouting director said. Elusive on his skates, Vision is top-end”
The skill set is there for Ratti but he’s considered a very raw prospect and considered a projection player three or four years down the road.

Finland winger on Pens radar?

Joel Armia
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 191 lbs
Position: Right Wing | Stats: 48 GP – 18 G – 11 A 29 PTS
Team: Assat League: Finland
Ranking: No. 4 Central Scouting (ES), No. 14 TSN
Scouting Report
Big winger who performed extremely well at the Under-18’s, leading Finland with 13 points.
The Penguins normally don’t look to take europeans under GM Ray Shero, especially in the first round but Armia has a lot of intrigue, especially if he falls.
“Already has the size and skill to compete against men, decent skater, strong, good hands, can really dangle with the puck, hard shot, ” via TSN scout Grant McCagg
Scouts indicate that there also isn’t any red flags about Armia’s desire to play in the NHL.
However, like many Europeans, a questionable work ethic is what could see Armia falling in round 1.
He’s one of those prospects whose very risky but has tremendous upside.

Skilled/Power Forward a Penguins kind of player

Nicklas Jensen
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190 lbs
Position: LW | Stats: 61 GP – 29 G -29 A 58 PTS
Team: Oshawa Generals League (OHL)
Rankings: No. 21 Central Scouting, No. 24 TSN
Scouting Report
I’m told that the Penguins would be thrilled to see the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Jensen available at the No. 23 selection.
He does just about everthing well and moves well for a big power forward. What intrigues scouts is how he’s one of those players who likes to score goals and they feel that will continue to be a developing area for him as he matures through the ranks.
Scouts see him as excellent value for Pittsburgh at No. 23.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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