Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Pittsburgh Penguins' 2014 Draft Picks
The Pittsburgh Penguins only had five draft picks in the 2014 NHL entry draft. A number of the team's selections had been moved out under the Ray Shero regime, so new GM Jim Rutherford had to do the best he could with what he had.
After taking the stage to make the 22nd overall pick, the Penguins waited until the middle of the second day to select their next player. A whopping 91 names were called between first-round pick Kasperi Kapanen and fourth-round selection Sam Lafferty, challenging co-directors of scouting Jay Heinbuck and Randy Sexton to unearth some late-round gems.
Heading into the draft, the goal for the team was to supplement the existing prospect group with a handful of new forwards. Sexton alluded to that when speaking with reporters after the dust had settled, saying "Coming in, our priority was to solidify our depth up front if we could. And we feel very, very good about the way we did that."
Four of the five selections Pittsburgh made turned out to be forwards, while the three after Kapanen are viewed as heavy players who thrive in the physical aspects of the game.
All statistical data appears courtesy of HockeyDB.com unless otherwise noted and is accurate through July 20.
Kasperi Kapanen: First Round, 22nd Overall
Best-Case Scenario: It didn't take long for Kasperi Kapanen to start carving out his own identity with the Penguins. Heading into the draft, he was the No. 1-ranked European skater and was noted because of his strong bloodlines.
The 17-year-old stood out at a recent prospect scrimmage despite not spending a lot of time on the ice. Bill Guerin told Michelle Crechiolo of the team's official website that "he’s even better than I thought he would be. I was very happy with him.”
At this point, the best-case scenario for Kapanen sees him making the NHL for the 2014-15 campaign. The Penguins could use another scoring forward, and the 22nd overall selection might be a solution.
Worst-Case Scenario: Rutherford has seen Kapanen out on the ice since he was a kid. The organization was excited to be able to draft a player who was ranked so highly despite having a selection in the back third of the first round.
Obviously the worst-case scenario would see Kapanen never panning out. It's likely that he'll always have the option to play in Europe, and while he's in no way a flight risk now, we're looking at the worst thing that could happen for the Penguins.
Likely Scenario for 2014-15: Look for Kapanen to make a strong statement in camp—strong enough to at least earn a shot at a top-nine role in Pittsburgh. He wouldn't fit in on a traditional third line, but Rutherford is attempting to do away with the usual scoring lines/checking lines setup.
Kapanen could spearhead that effort from the third unit while skating 12 or 13 minutes a night.
Sam Lafferty: Fourth Round, 113th Overall
Best-Case Scenario: Sam Lafferty made a lot of local headlines in Pennsylvania when the Penguins selected him in the fourth round. Usually later picks like that aren't met with a lot of fanfare, but this was a fun case of a local player being selected by the team he grew up rooting for.
Lafferty grew up in Hollidaysburg, less than two hours from Pittsburgh. The fun scenario would see him evolve into a high-end talent who piles on the points for the Penguins. It's more likely that the 6'0", 187-pound forward fills in as a speedy forechecker at the NHL level.
If he turns out to be a third- or fourth-line player, then that's a home run for the organization.
Worst-Case Scenario: Lafferty needs to pack on some muscle before he can play his brand of hockey at the pro level. He's heading to college, so he's a few years out, but the worst-case scenario would see him never making it to the NHL at all.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are adept at finding late-round players who can play roles in the NHL. Shero could never find those players—a big reason why he is no longer the general manager in Steel City. In Lafferty, the Penguins have a chance to start reversing those fortunes.
Likely Scenario for 2014-15: There's no mystery when it comes to Lafferty's road to the NHL. This season he will suit up for Tri-City in the United States Hockey League before heading to Brown University for the 2015-16 campaign.
Anthony Angello: Fifth Round, 145th Overall
Best-Case Scenario: After picking Kapanen in the first round, the Penguins sought out size and toughness in the later rounds. Anthony Angello fits the power-forward mold, using his size and strength to protect the puck while driving to the net.
The 6'4", 190-pounder described himself like this to the Penguins' official site:
I’m a big power forward that plays the physical role. Wins his 1-on-1 battles, grinds at the netfront, is able to work in the corners. I finish all my hits... I’d definitely say my big role is a physical-presence type of guy, where the defense are skating down and they look over their shoulder and say 'Oh no, there comes Angello, he’s going to put me through the wall.'
Forwards who can score 15 or 20 goals while taking a physical toll on the opposition are a rare breed. If Angello can bring his self-described game to the NHL, then the Penguins will have a forward capable of playing on just about any line.
Worst-Case Scenario: Power forwards are scarce in the NHL because it's a hard way to play the game. Injuries are frequent, and it requires a lot of gym time to maintain the physique needed to battle the likes of Milan Lucic and David Backes every night.
Too much muscle mass/size can slow a player down, rendering him useless at the professional level. Angello needs to find that balance to make it to the NHL. The worst-case scenario for him would be evolving into a simple crash-and-bang player at the AHL level.
Likely Scenario for 2014-15: Angello has committed to playing at Cornell University for the upcoming campaign.
Jaden Lindo: Sixth Round, 173rd overall
Best-Case Scenario: Jaden Lindo is an outstanding low-risk, high-reward selection for the Penguins. Odds are good that his draft stock would have been higher had he not been limited to 40 contests for the Owen Sound Attack.
Standing at 6'1" and weighing in at 201 pounds, Lindo's biggest strength is his size. He can overpower the opposition to be sure, but he plays incredibly hard and empties the tank on every shift. The best-case scenario for Lindo would see him taking on an energy role as a third- or fourth-line winger.
Worst-Case Scenario: Sixth-round picks are typically boom or bust. There are always a few value players to be had in the later rounds (and the occasional star), but Pittsburgh's history south of the first round over the last few years has been spotty.
Lindo has an excellent skill set but needs to continue to improve creatively. Right now he fits in well with north/south-style teams, but that might not be what the Penguins are good at by the time he's ready to push for a roster spot.
Likely Scenario for 2014-15: Lindo will return to the Attack, where he'll be hunting for a healthy breakout season.
Jeff Taylor: Seventh Round, 203rd Overall
Best-Case Scenario: The only non-forward the Penguins selected at the draft, Jeff Taylor is an offensive defenseman who's a bit undersized but might have the smarts to overcome that. He was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team last year and helped Union College win the 2014 NCAA National Championship.
Pittsburgh has a handful of young puck-moving defenders in the system already, but adding another never hurts. On paper, Taylor has the skill set to be a top-six defenseman in the NHL. Of course, he has plenty of development ahead of him before he pushes guys like Olli Maatta or Simon Despres for playing time.
Worst-Case Scenario: As a seventh-round pick, there's really no worst-case scenario for Taylor. The Penguins would love to see him in the NHL someday, but they won't be set back if he eventually settles as a minor leaguer or ends up playing overseas.
Likely Scenario for 2014-15: Taylor will be back with Union next year, helping them defend a national championship.