2014 NHL Draft: 5 Perfect Fits for Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins have seemingly mastered the art of snagging blue-chip prospects in the later stages of the first round. Jay Heinbuck and Randy Sexton—the co-directors of amateur scouting for the team—know on a yearly basis that their chances of making a lotto selection are nonexistent.
Barring a trade of some kind—like when Pittsburgh traded into the top 10 in 2012—the Penguins look to their scouts to find good, young players in the back half of the first round. While the first 10 picks or so generally make themselves with maybe one or two surprises, the field is typically wide open by the time Pittsburgh's brass steps up to the mic to make a pick.
For the purposes of this examination, we're going to assume the Penguins won't be making a lottery pick, and that they won't be picking any sooner than 15th since the first 14 selections go to the teams that do not make the playoffs.
Keeping that in mind, there are several outstanding young players Pittsburgh's scouting staff should be keeping a close eye on because of how well they'd fit in with the organization.
All statistics appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com and are accurate through games played up to January 28.
By the time the draft rolls around this summer, it's possible that Nikolay Goldobin will have scored his way into the top 10. Right now, he's considered a boom-or-bust type of winger, though, and that distinction has pushed him down to a place where the Penguins could conceivably snag him.
A dangerous shooter from just about anywhere inside the offensive zone, Goldobin made waves earlier this year by going on a 22-game point streak for the Sarnia Sting. He scored 21 goals and posted 43 points during said streak.
Pittsburgh has a ton of energetic and hardworking forwards in the system, but not many electric scorers. Goldobin fits that bill and would be a big boost to a group of wingers that has had some trouble finding the back of the net at the NHL level.
Like Goldobin, Josh Ho-Sang is a phenomenal scoring forward who could climb the rankings by this summer. He's actually fallen off a bit, though, which could work in the Penguins' favor if they fancy adding him.
Noted for his soft hands and fast release, Ho-Sang is another option Pittsburgh could consider if it's looking to add some more offense to the organization. While Ho-Sang is the kind of player that always seems to bring the crowd to its feet, he also has a reputation as a bit of a hot dog who doesn't always use his teammates like he could.
To be a complete NHL player, he needs to learn to better utilize the players around him while adding some muscle to his 5'11", 160-pound frame. The knocks on Ho-Sang might scare off the first 20 or so teams, but it'll be tough to pass on the raw but talented Ho-Sang if he's still available in the later part of the first round.
If the Penguins are going to try to add a potential top-six forward at the draft, Sonny Milano is a guy who could eventually fulfill that role at the NHL level. He's smallish like Goldobin and Ho-Sang, but every bit as tremendous in the offensive zone.
Billed as one of the quickest players available this year, Milano has a remarkable first step and is an "if he's even, he's leavin'" north-south skater. He's not just a one-trick, burn-down-the-boards forward, though.
His release is outstanding, and the hand-eye coordination is at an elite level. Like any teenager who will be available to the Penguins at his natural spot, Milano does have some elements to his game that he needs to continue to work on. That said, he would fill a organizational need (scoring wingers) while fitting the mold of a Penguin player already (smart and fast).
Pittsburgh's plans going into the first round of the last several drafts has been to select defenders. If it decides to stick with that this year, Roland McKeown is a player who could very well be toward the top of its wish list.
He's got Pittsburgh Penguin written all over him. McKeown isn't monstrous, but he's not diminutive, either; he stands at 6'1" while weighing in at 186 pounds. While he's not an overly physical player, McKeown isn't shy about initiating contact, either.
What makes him an outstanding potential Penguin is his high hockey IQ. Pittsburgh rarely breaks away from drafting smart players, and McKeown is as smart as they come in all three zones. Through 44 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, he's posted 40 points while carrying a solid plus-25 rating.
Offensive-minded defensemen are a currency in and of themselves in the NHL these days, and Anthony DeAngelo is among the more promising puck-moving blueliners available at the draft this year. Sarnia Sting head coach Trevor Letowski spoke to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com earlier in the season about this special player:
Obviously he's a very, very dynamic player offensively. He's really a threat as far as being a defenseman. He's able to create offense not just on the power play, but at 5-on-5 he's a threat. The other thing that really sticks out is he's a really passionate player. That's when he's at his best. He sometimes walks a fine line. He competes so hard, he wants to win, he wants to be the difference out there. It's been fun for me to watch him develop.
"Passionate" is a bit of an understatement. DeAngelo is a fiery competitor who can sometimes let his emotions get the better of him. He's the kind of player that others will follow once again unto the breach ,though, and he's all go-go all the time.
If Pittsburgh is looking to add the Tasmanian Devil on skates, this is their guy.
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