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Best (and worst) Pittsburgh Penguins draft picks from 2000-09

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Puck Daddy, in celebration of the 2000-2009 "decade" is doing all sorts of lists and rankings, like this one on the best and worst draft picks of this period. A good idea that Japers Rink tweaked for their purposes. Why let them have all the fun (and watch another Penguins blog do it). That's right, only the finest second hand stolen ideas here for you, after the jump!

Keeping in-line, we won't include lottery picks -- so no Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby or Jordan Staal to be found here. Let's get the unpleasant ones out of the way with the five worst Penguin draft picks from 2000-2009. It's unfair and too much of an exercise in hindsight to say the Pens SHOULD have drafted so-and-so, that's a little much. Still, judging who was on the board (especially when they got picked near the time of busts) is useful, even if somewhat painful.

#5 - Noah Welch (Defense, 2nd round, 54th overall in 2001)

Perhaps it's unfair to list Welch here, since he rose to be a fringe NHL'er, but he wasn't the surefire top six guy he was made out to be for Pittsburgh. Notable players drafted in this same neighborhood were: Jason Pominville, Jay McClement and Tomas Plekanec. Welch couldn't play his way into the NHL on a weak Pittsburgh defense that included Josef Melichar and Rob Scuderi (before he progressed into being "The Piece"). That disappointment lands him on this list.

#4 - Brian Gifford (Center, 3rd round, 85th overall in 2004)

Gifford was a swing and a miss, he never developed into an NHL prospect in a draft that featured several good players drafted around him. Gifford's a senior at Denver U now, but that he's not distinguishing himself there (and isn't on anyone's radar).

#3 - Ryan Stone (Winger, 2nd round, 32nd overall in 2003)

Stone may have hit his stride now in Edmonton, but there's no doubt he was a bust in Pittsburgh. Drafted in the talent rich 2003 draft (in the same round as Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Matt Carle and Shea Weber), Stone was a whiff by Penguin management. He dredged through a few years in Wilkes-Barre and eight games in Pittsburgh on a 4th line before exiting quietly in the trade that brought Mathieu Garon to the 'Burgh. When you have the second pick in the second round in one of the deepest and most talented drafts ever, you'd like a little more than that.

#2 - Ondrej Nemec (Defenseman, 2nd round, 35th overall in 2002)

Drafting a European defenseman high in the second round, the Penguins thought they added a strong puck mover with good hockey sense. And perhaps they did, but we'll never know. Nemec never showed much desire in coming to North America -- though he did make a brief cameo in Wilkes-Barre at the end of the 2004 season. Then he disappeared back into the Czech wilderness, never to be heard from again. Adding to the sting, the player drafted immediately after Nemec turned into a legit NHL playmaking center (Jarret Stoll) and the next two defensemen selected after Nemec both are NHL regulars (Trevor Daley and Matt Greene).

#1 - Johannes Salmonsson (Winger, 2nd round, 31st overall in 2004)

Salmonsson was advertised as a pure "boom or bust" prospect, and unfortunately was a total bust. He landed on North American soil for 54 games in the WHL junior league in 2005-06, but injuries and a style of play more suited for Europe made that stay short. The first pick in the second round of a draft, more than an almost invisible blip should happen.

Dishonorable mention: Michael Gergen, Shane Endicott and Angelo Esposito

Notice a trend there? All but Gifford (and Esposito) were taken in the 2nd round, which hasn't been kind to Pittsburgh ever since they drafted Greg Malone way back when. Enough of the negative, let's take a look at the Penguins hits in the Top 5 picks of the draft.

#5 - Tyler Kennedy (Winger, 4th round, 99th overall in 2004)

Quick progression is a common place among good draft picks. 2 seasons after drafted, TK jumped to the AHL and less than a year after that he was in the NHL for good, carving a solid niche as an energy/checker with a knack for scoring important goals (10 of his 31 NHL goals are game winners).

#4 - Matt Moulson (Winger, 9th round, 263th overall in 2003)

Moulson was a scorer in college, but the Pens elected not to retain his rights. He spent a few years in LA's system (where he still showed goal scoring touch) before sticking now with the New York Islanders. Moulson (with 14 goals so far in 2009-10) doesn't look out of place on their first line with wonderkid John Tavares, which can only lead Pens fans to wonder how good he might have been alongside Crosby or Malkin.

#3 - Max Talbot (Center, 8th round, 234th overall in 2002)

The knack for scoring big goals applies to no one in the NHL more than Max Talbot. In the two years after his draft, Talbot won the playoff MVP in the QMJHL in both seasons. Proving he could be a regular NHL'er took a little longer, as Talbot bounced between the AHL and NHL for a season before establishing himself in PIttsburgh, which probably speaks to good development just as well as drafting. Surely no one knew Talbot was a surefire "gamer", or else he would have been drafted several rounds higher, but that Pittsburgh selected him is good enough for recognition.

#2 - Alex Goligoski (Defenseman, 2nd round, 61st overall in 2004)

30 spots after taking Salmonsson, the Pens finally broke their "curse" of second round picks. Goligoski, though small, could skate and had great offensive abilities, dug up in Minnesota by Penguin scout Chuck Grillo. Pittsburgh didn't know it at the time, but was the perfect post-lockout defenseman, chosen a few months before the lockout began. He spend time at Minnesota and the AHL getting up to speed, but is now a legit Top 4 defenseman that is good on the PP.

#1 - Kris Letang (Defenseman, 3rd round, 62nd overall in 2005)

In the serpentine 2005 draft, the Pens used one of their consecutive picks on a smooth skating, right-handed shot out of the QMHJL and Letang impressed almost immediately, nearly sticking in the NHL as a 18 year old, before serving a 10 game stint in Wilkes-Barre before jumping full time to the NHL. Not many defenseman can take that career pass and be successful. Letang did.

Honorable mentions: Luca Caputi, Robert Bortuzzo, Michel Ouellet

So there you have it -- some hits, some misses and some development along the way. There's no doubt the story of this decade for the Penguins are all the lottery picks that stocked the organization for Stanley Cup runs, but without filling in the pieces later in the draft, that run wouldn't have been possible.