After trading James Neal to the Predators for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, the Penguins got around to the business of the Draft itself, selecting Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen with the 22nd-overall pick.
Kapanen (5'11", 180 lbs) is a 17-year-old right winger who played his last two seasons in Sm-Liiga, the top professional hockey circuit in Finland.
Kapanen, 17, was the No. 1-rated European skater by NHL Central Registry after finishing with seven goals, seven assists and 14 points in 47 games for Kalpa in Finland's top professional league.
Kapanen is the son of long-time NHL player Sami Kapanen, who had 458 career points in 831 NHL regular-season games. The two Kapanens were teammates this year with Kalpa.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford drafted Kasperi's dad, Sami, in the fourth round (87th overall) in the 1995 NHL Draft when he was the GM of the Hartford Whalers.
Kapanen was ranked as the 10th-overall prospect by The Hockey News; 13th-overall by International Scouting Services; and 18th-overall by McKeen's Hockey.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Kapanen has starred internationally many times for Finland, scoring five goals at the 2013 World Under-18 Championships, including the game-winning marker in the bronze-medal game.
At the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge, Kapanen led Finland in scoring with nine points (3G-6A).
Kapanen becomes Pittsburgh's second Finn in as many drafts to go in the first round. The team last selected Olli Maatta with the 22nd pick of the first round in 2012 (no first rounder in 2013).
Kapanen also becomes the first winger the team has selected in the first round since Beau Bennett in 2010.
Pittsburgh is clearly hurting for help up front, where the team's only sure thing, top-six winger is Chris Kunitz. Pascal Dupuis is a candidate to play on the third line coming off of major knee surgery, Bennett has yet to establish himself as a reliable top-six option, newly-acquired Patric Hornqvist has yet to be named to a role and Jussi Jokinen could very likely price himself out of the Penguins' budget in free agency.
The team has gone all-in on defensemen in recent years, meaning there's little immediate help coming to spell that top-six group. Kapanen's selection is indicative of a new philosophy now that former GM Ray Shero has been let go.
From Jesse Marshall at Faceoff-Factor, who had Kapanen marked at 21 overall:
21. Kasperi Kapanen - RW - KalPa (Sm-Liiga) - 5'10 - 171lbs - Shoots R - 7/23/1996
Son of former NHL great Sami Kapanen, Kasperi Kapanen is a young, flashy winger who is equal parts playmaker and goal-scorer. While he may not have the flashy skating of his father, he can cruise around the ice at an above-average pace. Kapanen's awareness is also above-average and his hands enable him to distribute the puck around the ice effectively. Kapanen's calling card is his shot, which has a quick release and pinpoint accuracy. Kapanen can fool goaltenders by finding open spaces and squeezing pucks in with elite precision. His shot and game as a whole would be bolstered if he played with his head up a bit more. Kapanen doesn't have a traditional howitzer of a sniper, but what he lacks in velocity he makes up for with stealth. His release is quick and deceiving. Kapanen is adequate defensively, and while his game in his own end isn't an eyesore, some seasoning will be necessary for the next level. His game in the tough areas of the ice and in the department of physicality is a cause for concern. Kapenen doesn't necessarily avoid contact as much as frame and approach hurt him. Having missed out on the World Junior due to injury, there's still a large element to his game that has yet to be seen on an extremely large stage despite the fact that he was playing against grown men in Liiga. Kapanen's fast hands, elite shot, and overall offensive skill set make him a strong asset in this draft that can deliver a large ROI with the investment that comes with it.
2013/14 Liiga Statistics: 47GP - 7G - 7A - 14PTS - 10PIM - -8
Kapanen is a few years away from NHL service, but his selection perhaps marks an acknowledgement that the team is going to do more to support their top forwards from now on.