1. 2006-2008Â DRAFT CLASSES:Â One former long-time GM once told me any kind of an evaluation of an NHL draft class shouldn’t be made until five years after the particular draft, but good scouting departments find those players in the middle rounds who develop into NHL regulars by three to four years, five at the max.
Under GM Ray Shero Pittsburgh has failed to do that and Rob Rossi had a goodÂ feature in Today’s Tribune-Review discussing the little return Shero has from the 2006-2008 NHL drafts as Jordan Staal is the only player of the 16 drafted by the Penguins to establish himself as an NHL regular. The lack of NHL regulars out of the 2006-2008 drafts has Rossi making the argument that Pittsburgh has little choice but to stick with the three center model as Shero has struggled mightily to develop forwards.
Here’s my Look at the 2006-2008 draft classes (focus on middle rounds) and Craig Patrick’s success (middle rounds)Â in his final three to four draft classes:
From the 2006-2008Â drafts in rounds 2-7, defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Carl Sneep and Brian Strait have played a combined 16 NHL regular season games.
Sneep who was taken 32nd overall in the 2006 draft, continues to struggle to stay healthy and is well down the organizational depth chart on the blueline.
A notable name taking after Sneep in the second round was Milan Lucic at 50th overall, selected by the Boston Bruins.
Out of the 2006 draft class (Rounds 2-7), Strait the team’s third round pick (65th overall) is the only potential impact player, emerging now as a possible No. 6, No. 7 defenseman at the NHL level. A notable name taken right after Strait was Brad Marchand who was selected 71st overall by the Boston Bruins who had an excellent draft in the middle rounds that season.
In the 2007 draft, center Angelo Esposito was taken in the first round and ended up being apart of the Marian Hossa trade in February 2008. Esposito has never developed into an NHL regular.
In evaluating the 2007 draft class (rounds 2-7), Shero never found that Max Talbot or Tyler Kennedy who was making an impact within just a few years of being draft.
Despite being loaded at the center position at the NHL level, Shero took talented big centerman Keven Veilleux in the second round at 51st overall, and VeilleuxÂ has had little impact in the minors due to struggles to stay healthy and is nowhere near ready to being an NHL regular. A notable player taken after Veilleux was Wayne Simmonds drafted 61st overall in the second round by the LA Kings.
In the third round Shero went center again, drafting Casey Pierro-Zabotel who has been a complete flop and also added defensemen Robert Bortuzzo in the third round who would be an NHL regular with a few other teams.
While the Penguins by passed the likes of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand in the second and third rounds in 2006, they missed a gem in Jamie Benn (as did other teams) during the 2007 draft when Pittsburgh had two fourth round picks and selected Luca Caputi at 111 and defenseman Alex Grant 118th overall. Benn was selected by Dallas 129th overall in the fifth round, 11 spots after GrantÂ and BennÂ has ended up being the steal of the 2007 draft.
For Shero, the 2007 draft has been a disappointingÂ one and he has little to nothing to showÂ out of the 2008 draft class as Cornell defenseman Nick D’Agostino is the onlyÂ player out of that draft class still in the organization and D’Agostino is regarded as a top-10 prospect and we have him rated as the team’s No. 7 rated prospect. However, the team is loaded on the blueline.
PATRICK’S FINAL DRAFT YEARS
Meanwhile, one thing Craig Patrick and his scouting staff led by Greg Malone did was draft well in the middle rounds during their final three to four draft classes.
In the 2002 draft class, third round pick Eric Christensen was a regular with the Penguins by 2006, scoring 18 goals in 61 games for a playoff Penguins team during the 2006-2007 season.
Also out of that 2002 draft class was Max Talbot who wasÂ the late roundÂ gem out of the group for Pittsburgh, selected in the 8th round, 234th overall. Talbot made his NHL debut in 2005 and was a regular in the NHL in 2006, scoring 13 goals in 75 games during the 2006-2007 season on a playoff Penguins team.
In the 2004 draft, second round pick Alex Goligoski made his NHL debut in February 2008, less than four years after being drafted and was a regular in the NHL by the 2008-2009 season.
Tyler Kennedy was selected 99th overall in the fourth round and Kennedy made his NHL debut in October 2007 and has been a regular in the NHL since.
In 2005 draft, Kris Letang was selected in the third round (62nd overall) andÂ Letang made his NHL debut in October 2006 and was a regular in the NHL during the 2007-2008 season, two years after being drafted. Also taken late in the 2005 draft was Joe Vitale who was selected in the seventh round (195 overall). Vitale has become a role player in the NHL but didn’t make his NHL debut until six years after being drafted.
In 2003 draft class, notable players drafted by Patrick who have now become NHL regulars include Daniel Carcillo (third round), Paul Bissonnette (4th round), Matt Moulson (9thround) and Nick Johnson who was selected in the third round in the 2004 draft.
2. STRAIT, BORTUZZO SHOWCASING THEMSELVES: The Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins advanced to the Conference Semi-Finals with a 2-1 victory over the Hersey Bears Saturday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
For NHL ready players such as Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo , a long playoff run is great news for them as both players are waiver eligible next fall and they aren’t just showcasing themselves for a spot at the NHL levelÂ with the Penguins but also for other teams.
This playoff run is also crucial for Eric Tangradi who is showing signs of being ready to push for a role player spot with the Penguins next season.
3. STEELERS RECEIVE GRADE “B” FROM KIPER:
Draft expert Mel Kiper writesÂ that the Steelers had a “fantastic draft”, yet Kiper only gaveÂ Pittsburgh a “B” grade, which is low as on paper Pittsburgh deserves at least a B+.
Kiper gives the Steelers an “A-” for addressing needs and “B-” for Value, leading to an overall grade of a B.
Kiper on the Steelers offensive line. “Pittsburgh got one of the total steals of the draft when Stanford guard David DeCastro fell all the way to No. 24. Just think about the inside of that offensive line now with DeCastro next to Maurkice Pouncey. It could be a dominant unit.”
Elsewhere in the AFC North, Kiper gave the Bengals an “A-“, Ravens “B” and Browns “B-“.
4. ROETHLISBERGER PLEASED WITH PICKS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was kept in the loop on the Steelers draft plans and felt there was a chance the team was going to address their offensive line early. Courtesy of the Altoona Mirror, Roethlisberger speaking to an audience of 1,100 Saturday night at the 25th anniversary of the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Blair County Convention Center, spoke about the Steelers going O-line in the top two rounds.
“”I’m excited,” Roethlisberger said before Saturday’s event. “You know, at least on paper, it looks awesome. But, you never know until you take the field and the bullets start flying. I’m really excited. We got some good guys on offense and defense to help add to a team that was good already.
“I had an idea [about the picks]. They kept me in the loop a little bit. When DeCastro was there, you got to take him. Some are saying he’s one of the best guards in college since Alan Faneca. We hope he can live up to the hype.”
5. PIRATES 9-11 AT 20 GAME MARK: The Pittsburgh Pirates are 9-11 at the 20 game mark and 6-4 in their last 10 games.
With the schedule the Pirates have had to open the season, that’s a record there shouldn’t be much fuss about.
Despite ranking 30th in runs (46), 28th in batting average (.223), 29th on-base (.274), 29th slugging percentage (.324), there’s a little bit of optimism in that improvement is likely in that Pedro Alvarez is taking some baby steps and showing positive signs at the plate, while Neil Walker and Jose Tabata have shown in the past they can hit better than they areÂ and Andrew McCutchen has the ability to hit for power and it hasn’t been there yet.
The pitching staff has helped carry the Pirates to a 9-11 record but this is a group management is much more comfortable with than the group that imploded during the second half ofÂ last season.
1. Alex Presley, LF
2. Jose Tabata, RF
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
4. Garrett Jones, 1B
5. Neil Walker, 2B
6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
7. Clint Barmes, SS
8. Michael McKenry, C
9. Kevin Correia, P