Where the 2016 Draft Class falls into the Penguins prospect pool
The Pittsburgh Penguins 2016 draft class saw them select one goaltender, four defensemen and one forward.
The Penguins going heavy with defensemen was a stance Jim Rutherford planned to take but the way the board played out, Pittsburgh passed on going defense in Round 2 when they held the 55th and 61st overall selections.
The team considered trading up into the mid-40’s to select a defenseman of interest and felt the price wasn’t worth it. The scouting staff was pleased with how things played out in getting goaltender Filip Gustavsson at No. 55.
Pittsburgh had Gustavsson rated at the No. 1 goalie on their board.
“Surprised he was still there at our pick, so we really couldn’t pass on him,” GM Jim Rutherford told reporters on Saturday.
“Our first pick, Filip Gustavsson, was in our opinion the best goalie in the draft,” director of scouting Randy Sexton said in speaking to reporters on the draft floor. “He’s a technically very strong goalie, he’s got tremendous rebound control and tremendous poise and mental toughness. He didn’t play on the greatest junior team in Sweden, their national team was just okay. But he helped them win several medals in the tournaments over the course of the season because of his outstanding play.”
Sexton said there are some similarities to Matt Murray from a mental and technical standpoint, though, Murray is taller.
Goaltending Prospect Pool
With Matt Murray graduating to the NHL and becoming the Penguins’ No. 1 goaltender, Tristan Jarry entered the draft weekend as the Penguins top goalie prospect. He’s reign as the Penguins No. 1 goaltending prospect is now short-lived.
Gustavsson now has that honor and immediately becomes the Penguins No. 1 goaltending prospect as the Penguins believe he has great potential to be a No. 1 NHL goaltender.
When the Penguins traded up for Jarry in 2013, also selecting him in the second round, they felt the same way but scouts now project Jarry’s ceiling as being more of a No. 2 NHL goaltender than a true No. 1.
Jarry went 17-13 with a 2.69 GAA and .905 save percentage in his first season with Wilkes Barre.
2012 4th round pick Sean Maguire enters the summer as the Penguins No. 3 goaltending prospect in the Penguins system. Maguire, 23, sat out the 2014-2015 season at Boston College due to a medical redshirt. He came back in 2015-2016 going 13-9-1 with a 2.41 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Maguire’s ceiling is one of a minor league goaltender.
Forward Prospect Pool
After going goaltender at No. 55, Jim Rutherford wanted to go with a defenseman at No. 61, but the Penguins European scouts were adamant about taking Kasper Bjorkqvist (6-1, 200).
“Our European scouts, they were close, and they followed him, and they loved this player,” Rutherford said.
Bjorkqvist is more of an all-around player who the Penguins feel could develop into a punishing bottom-6 player than a high-end skilled player.
“He has a really strong low game,” European scout Patrik Allvin said. “He’s strong on the puck, goes to the net. He’s hard to play against.”
Bjorkqvist will play at Providence college this fall and Randy Sexton believes he’s a year or two away from being ready to turn pro.
“We saw Bjorkqvist at the World juniors. Had a 4th line role there, going to be playing at Providence college [in fall]. We think he’s a year or two away from turning pro. Physically very strong, he’s got great hockey sense, overall skill set very strong,” Sexton said.
Where does Bjorkqvist fall in the Penguins’ prospect pool?
The forward group is headlined by Daniel Sprong and Jake Guentzel, the two consensus top forward prospects in the organization. Some in the organization even view Guentzel slightly ahead of Sprong.
While few spots are available in Pittsburgh, Guentzel could push for NHL time by mid-season.
Sprong’s 2016-2017 season is going to be basically lost with major shoulder surgery that will sideline him 8 months.
The second tier of forwards in the Penguins system are Scott Wilson (soon to be graduating to a full-time NHL role), Oskar Sundqvist, and Dominik Simon.
The next group of upside forwards in the system include Josh Archibald, whose north-south speed could see him rise the organizational depth chart this season, J.S. Dea, a smallish center whose skilled game flashed in training camp and 2012 second round pick Teddy Blueger.
Blueger has not developed as quick as the Penguins have hoped but the organization hasn’t written him off. They view his playmaking game and two-way play as being key areas where he has a chance to still develop into an NHL player down the road.
Bjorkqvist is intriguing because the Penguins don’t really have a player like him in their forward group who has a combination of skill/size/physicality. While not as big as Milan Lucic, he plays a similar type of bruising style that had him rated on the Penguins board a lot higher than the scouting services out there.
Conflicting Opinions on Defensemen Selected
The Pittsburgh Penguins are taking some heat in regards to the type of defensemen they selected. The first two defensemen selected, Connor Hall (6-2, 190) at No. 77 and Ryan Jones (6-3, 190) at No. 121 are both kind of throwback defensemen who play more of a punishing style than being known for puck movers.
Sexton made it clear, though, that both can skate when defending the selections from critics who were hard on the Penguins not taking puck moving type d-men that the Penguins covet at the pro level.
“Conor Hall, kind of a throwback old style defenseman. Good size, skates very well. Very physically, aggressive defenseman,” Sexton said. “Ryan Jones, 6-foot-3, extremely mobile and plays with a real edge. Going to be going to University of Nebraska-Omaha.”
“Their puck skills are sufficient to play the way we want to play,” Sexton said of Hall, Jones. “They bring a certain dimension we currently don’t have, particularly if we’re not able to get Ben Lovejoy signed. Both of those kids are over 6-foot-2, so they move well. They have the puck skills with quick zone exits that Sully likes to play and more importantly they bring a physical edge, dimension we don’t have.”
Fifth round pick Niclas Almari (6-1, 167) is more of a project whose several years away. What the Penguins like is the puck moving ability.
“Almari is a little bit like Oskar Sundqvist from a physical perspective. Tall but very lean. Oskar is in year 4 of the development program and kind of close to knocking on the door. Almari will be the same,” Sexton said. “He’s tall, but he’s very slender, very lean. He’s an excellent skater, he’s real smooth-skating, puck-moving transitional type D-man. certainly a mobile puck-moving, transitional type D-man.”
With their last pick in the draft, Pittsburgh selected defenseman Joe Masonius (6-0, 190) with the No. 181 selection. Sexton talked about Masonius being “extremely mobile”.
The Penguins prospect pool on the blueline is headlined by Derrick Pouliot, who will soon be graduating to a full-time role, we think.
After that it’s a wide open group as Hall and Jones in particular have a chance to move into the top-3 easily.
After Pouliot, it’s a bunch of question marks.
Reid McNeil has strong stay-at-home capabilities but his NHL ceiling is not considered high as an NHL regular, especially in the Penguins system. Potential No. 7 type at best.
The likes of Ryan Segalla and Harrison Ruopp have low NHL ceilings.
The most intriguing defensemen in the system behind the top-two drafted yesterday are Lukas Bengtsson and Ethan Prow.
Both are smooth skating defenseman who could make some noise due to the style of play the Penguins now play.[/hide]