The Pittsburgh Penguins will have the 20th overall pick in the first round of this year's NHL entry draft. While the draft might be overshadowed by the recently completed Stanley Cup playoffs, those who ignore the significance of the selections do so at their own peril. Successful drafting is critical to replenishing an organization's depth and remaining competitive in today's salary cap league. Considering that the Penguins' 1st round pick has a decent chance to become an impact player at the NHL level, who they select will have important ramifications in the future.
I'll be limiting my review to those who play a position the Penguins are likely to draft in the first round and who would likely be available around the 20th pick. The Pens have a ton of quality centermen and goalies within the organization, and I'd be shocked if they used their 1st round pick this year to select a player at that position. Likewise, the Penguins are relatively young at defensemen, and they selected Simon Depres last year in the 1st round. This leaves us with players who play wing. I think the Pens are likely to draft a winger in the 1st round due to the lack of quality wings at the NHL level, and the discrepancy in talent between Eric Tangradi and the next closest winger in the AHL.
Let's find out who's out there.John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves (OHL), LW
|Stats - 2009||18||6' 1/4"||192||Right||64||20||30||50||70||-17||7||1|
The Skinny: McFarland is known for being one of the fastest players in the OHL and having a really good wrist shot, as both his coach and E.J. McGuire have confirmed. He's also recently worked on his defensive game to become a better two-way forward. His coach says that he has really started to contribute in the defensive zone by initiating contact and not shying away from players with the puck. His 50 points this past year was second on his team, and he previously captained Canada's U-18 team to a gold medal at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
Stanislav Galiev, Saint John Sea Dogs (OMJHL), RW
|Stats - 2009||18||6' 1"||178||Right||67||15||45||60||38||+41||7||0|
The Skinny: Galiev is a dynamic player who can be very creative with the puck. He's also an intelligent player who backchecks hard and plays at both ends of the ice. While he's inconsistent when it comes to capitalizing on his chances right now, most scouts are happy to see that he's committed to playing in the NHL, and that he has the talent to become an impact player for quite some time. His draft stock has been rising over the course of the season, and some projections have him as high as the 15th overall pick.
Petr Straka, Rimouski Oceanic (OMJHL), RW
The Skinny: Straka is a speedy winger with great hands and a nose for the net. He was an important member of Rimouski's deadly power play unit, and won the QMJHL's Rookie of the Year award after leading all rookies in goals and points. E.J. McGuire sees high-end potential in Straka, who reminds him of Martin Erat or Pavel Dmitra. For those who are looking for still more information on Petr, check out this phenomenal write-up the guys over at In Lou We Trust put together.
Kirill Kabanov, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL), LW
The Skinny: "He's highly talented -- as talented as any player in the draft." Those are the words of E.J. McGuire when discussing the potential of Kirill Kabanov. But he is not without his downside. A wrist injury this year sidelined him for most of the season, and we're not sure how that's going to affect the rest of his game. He was also dropped by his agent and dismissed from the U-18 Russian team. The consensus seems to be that Kabanov has the ability and on-ice tools to be a very good NHL player. But whether he has the mentality to handle the off-ice stuff that comes with being a professional athlete is still a lingering question.
Youtube: Check out his draft profile.
That's all I've got for potential 1st round picks. It should go without saying that there are plenty of other talented players that I didn't cover who could very easily be drafted and become successful NHL stars; I only tried to highlight the most likely possibilities for the Penguins this year. Yet regardless of who they choose, here's to hoping it's a future Hall-of-Famer.