Penguins zeroing in on forwards
The 2010 NHL entry draft is less than two months away and the Penguins appear to be a lock to select late in the first round once again. After going defense with their 1st and 2nd round selections in the 2009 entry draft, a top priority for Pittsburgh is the forward position.
With no second round selection, the Penguins are zeroing in on wingers with their first round selection in an attempt to bolster their group of subpar wingers in their system.
Under GM Ray Shero, the Penguins have been known not to gamble on European players overseas in the early rounds. All indications are the Penguins will continue with that strategy but there are a few European targets who are playing in North America. Rimouski’s Petr Straka is among 4-to-5 winger prospects that have been heavily scouted by the Penguins staff over the past couple months, according to team sources.
Scouts indicate there’s a strong group of winger prospects available in the 20-30 range and let’s take an inside look at four prospects being linked to Pittsburgh.
RW Stanislav Galiev – Age: 18
Height: 6-1 Weight: 181 lbs
Team: Saint John (QMJHL): 67GP-15G-45A-60 pts
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Analysis: Penguin scouts have seen a lot of Galiev over the past two years after scouting teammate and 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres heavily last season.
Regarded as a strong two-way player, Galiev is a dynamic forward who plays with some flare that Russians are known for. Elusive one-on-one player and characterized as being an intelligent player. Has started to develop a North American type of game and is known to play with an edge.
Decision to leave Russia at age 15 to play in North America has proved to scouts that Galiev is serious about playing in the NHL.
His goal production dropped from 29 to 15 this season but hasn’t concerned scouts to a serious extent.
Final Central Scouting Ranking: 20
*RW Kevin Hayes – Age 17
Height: 6-2: Weight: 203 lbs
Team: Nobles – High MA (28GP-25G-42A-67pts)
Hometown: Boston, MA,
Analysis: A typical skilled power forward that Pittsburgh covets. Possesses tremendous size and strength for a player at his age and is an extremely gifted offensive player.
Hayes has all the tools to be a top line power forward type of player and at age 17 is already 6-2, 203 lbs. Body will continue to develop and one of his best assets is his skating ability, according to one evaluator. Hayes is the 26th ranked player according to the final central scouting rankings. He’s a player with a lot of upside and will likely be around in the 25-30 range.
“Kevin is a skilled power forward who plays with enthusiasm and drive. He has very good hands and is an excellent play maker. He is a strong skater with a long stride, and uses his long reach and puck protection to beat defenders. He has an excellent wrist shot with a sneaky quick release, and will shoot from any angle. He controls the puck very well in traffic, sees the ice very well, and finds the open man. He has a very good knack of playing the puck in his skates for a big player, often moving the puck from skates to stick without losing speed.”
**RW Petr Straka – Age 17
Height: 6-1, Weight: 185 lbs
Team: Rimouski, QMJHL: (62GP-28g-36a-64pts)
Hometown: Plzen, CZE
Analysis: A fast rising player who has jumped 10 spots in the final central scouting rankings going from No. 33 to No. 23 to solidify a likely first round selection.
Another European who has made the smart decision to play in North America as teams are becoming wary of signing Europeans who are playing overseas to due the transfer rules and the lure of the KHL.
Straka is a dynamic player with the puck and scouts have raved about his potential as a goal scorer. Accurate, hard shot with a quick release. His playmaking ability is a step above his goal scoring ability at this point in his development but it’s his goal scoring ability that I keep hearing praise about.
Straka is a high end player that is very much on the Penguins radar and has even drawn comparisons to Patrik Elias.
Body though needs to fill out.
**RW/C Charlie Coyle – Age 18
Height: 6-2, Weight: 203 lbs
Team: South Shore, EJHL: (42GP-21G-42A-63pts)
Hometown: E. Weymouth, MA
Analysis: Another skilled power forward type that has a high first round grade from a number of teams. A prospect I’ve heard great things from Penguin evaluators. Coyle is the 24th ranked player according to the final Central Scouting Rankings.
“Charlie is a skilled forward, who can play a power game as well as a finesse game. He has very good size and athleticism. He has very soft hands and is a confident puck handler. His passes are accurate and proper for the situation. He has a long and strong stride and beats defenders with his acceleration and puck skills. He has a very good wrist shot to support his passing skills in his role as a major contributor to his team’s offense. He should, however, shoot the puck more than he does to take advantage of his excellent shot.”