The 2011-2012 Pittsburgh Penguins season came to a disappointing end this spring at the hands of our cross-state rivals. After a week or two of hashing and rehashing (lots of hash) the various issues that caused the Pens' early demise, it is time to start looking forward to next season: and it starts right here, at Pittsburgh's very own Consol Energy Center, with the 2012 NHL draft.
I am not going to review all of the top prospects. Barring a trade of Jordan Staal, the Pens don't have to worry about the top 15 picks or so. Below, I will introduce you to 5 players that should be on Ray Shero's radar as the Pens turn to pick approaches.
Disclaimer: I am no draft expert and I will not claim to be. I did a few hours reading, researching stats and watching highlight clips to come to my conclusions below.
Ht/Wt: 6' 2"/175 lbs
Team: Dubuque (USHL)
The Latvian native came over to the US 2 years ago and has become an excellent 2-way player. Girgensons averaged better than a point per game this season and also put up a +17 rating. He has the ability to play in all game situations and is not afraid to mix it up along the boards when needed. Still has room to grow skating-wise, and also has plenty of space to fill out on his somewhat lanky frame.
He did recently suffer a season ending broken jaw, but that does not sound like something that would be a long term issue.
A bit of a project player at just 18 years of age, he has a commitment to play at the University of Vermont starting in 2012-13.
Ht/Wt: 6' 2"/183 lbs
Team: Peterborough (OHL)
A big 2 way defender with a booming shot that looks like a prototypical Power play quarterback. A smooth, accurate passer who can quickly jump into the rush, Koekkoek can also play physical in his own end and take minutes against the opposition’s scoring lines. Koekkoek put up 5 goals and 18 points in just 26 games this year. His -7 rating is likely a product of playing for one of the worst teams in the OHL.
Having just turned 18 in February, Koekkoek is probably a few years away from NHL action.
Ht/Wt: 6' 2"/200 lbs
Team: Slavia (Cze)
Currently playing in the Czech Extraliga, Hertl is already getting a taste of professional hockey overseas. The 18 year old Czech can play both Center and Wing.
Hertl is noted for being very strong on the puck in the offensive zone, and makes up for a lack of great speed with a knack for getting into the dirty areas to make plays. Plays a bit of a Chris Kunitz type game, if you are into comparisons.
Ht/Wt: 6' 1"/183 lbs
Team: USA U-18
A powerful 2 way Center whose primary strength is controlling and distributing the puck in the offensive zone.
While not likely to become a 30 goal scorer at the NHL level, Kerdiles has the potential to be an excellent number 2 center given a few more years to develop.
Backchecks hard (wouldn’t we love to see that!!) and plays defense energetically. And he’s an American, so bonus points for that. Committed to play for University of Wisconsin next year.
Ht/Wt: 6' 0"/170 lbs
Team: Oshawa (OHL)
A gritty 2 way Center can be described as explosive both in his skating and his checking. Is unafraid to drive the net and take a knock to make a play. The Ontario native seems to project best as a 2nd line Center, and averaged nearly a point per game this year while racking up over 100 PIM.