With the head coaching question put to rest this week by the hiring of Mike Johnston on Wednesday, it is time to ask the question, who is at the top of the draft board of the Pittsburgh Penguins when it is their turn on Friday at the 2014 National Hockey League Entry Draft?
For the 52nd time, the teams gather together to select the next generation of hockey players with this year’s event being held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The first round is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night and will be carried on the NBC Sports Network as well as streamed live on NBC Live Extra. The NHL Network will show Rounds 2-7 starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Barring any last minute trades, the Black and Gold has picks at 22 in the first round, 113 in the fourth round, 145 in the fifth round, 173 in the sixth round, and 203 in the seventh round of this year’s draft. The Pens traded their second round pick to the San Jose Sharks in 2013 for defenseman Douglas Murray. Their third round selection was dealt to the Calgary Flames for right wing Lee Stempniak.
Pittsburgh also sent their fifth round pick, which is the 143rd overall, as well as their third round pick in 2015, to the Florida Panthers in exchange for center Marcel Goc. It should be noted that they did obtain an additional fifth round pick when they traded defenseman Ben Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks in 2013.
The last time the Pens selected in the 22nd slot they chose defenseman Olli Maatta in the 2012 NHL Draft held at Consol Energy Center.
It is no secret that the Penguins are looking for more skill on the wings. According to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, their three top forward prospects on the horizon are right wingers Josh Archibald, chosen in the sixth round of 2011; Tom Kuhnhackl, taken in the fourth round of 2010; and Anton Zlobin, selected in the sixth round of 2012.
Let’s take a look at the mix of prospects that could be available when the Black and Gold are on the clock.
1) Adrian Kempe – (C/LW) Modo, Jr of Sweden – The 6-2, 178-pound forward has displayed a penchant for battling for pucks along the boards and is a strong checker. He was a member of Sweden’s gold-medal winning team at the 2013 World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he averaged a goal-per-game.
Kempe was the choice in the mock drafts on myNHLDraft.com; Ian Altenbaugh of hockeyfuture.com; and Robert Slavinsky of hockeytracker.net
2) Nikita Scherbak – (LW) Saskatoon Blades of the WHL – The Russian forward led all WHL rookies in scoring by putting up 28 goals, 50 assists for a total of 78 points. His versatility allows him to play all three forward positions.
Scherbak was the selection in mock drafts on FoxSports.com; Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com; Hooks Oprik of Pensburgh on SB Nation.com; and Caitlin Campbell of Frozen Futures on Fansided.com.
3) Joshua Ho-Sang – (C/RW) Windsor Spitfires of the OHL – The 5-11, 176-pound forward led Windsor with 85 points in 67 regular-season games. The Toronto, Ontario native tied with Brady Vail for the team record in goals in a single-season with 32.
Ho-Sang was the mock draft choice of Adam Kimelman at NHL.com, and is a favorite of Joseph Sykes at BleacherReport.com.
When the moment arrives, it will be interesting to see whose name is on the card when the Penguins make their decisions. Who will eventually take the ice at Consol Energy Center?