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SBN Mock Draft: With the 23rd Overall Pick, the Pittsburgh Penguins select..

A mock draft can be tough to forecast, especially this year when the prospects are anyone's guess after about the top eight guys out there.

When asked to make this pick, I'm going to pretend that Ray Shero decided he was moving to Hawai'i and convinced Mario Lemieux to give me the job.  (I have this dream about eight hours every night, for some reason).  So what do the Pens want in the first round?

-With Marc-Andre Fleury, 26, under contract for for four more seasons, I'm not terribly interested in adding to the organization there.

-Defensively you can never have too many players, but the Pens do have Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang all locked up for the next 3-4 years and Simon Despres is about to turn pro as well, leaving the defensive outlook in good order.

-That leaves forwards.  Though the team has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, the age-old problem has been getting enough talent around them.  Young players tend to be cheap, and the best way to get skill is in the first round of an NHL draft, so I decided that my focus would be to add whom I believe had the most skill to offer.

I don't have scouts, just reports of others to go on, and there's one name left that still stands out...How's that for a tease, to be revealed behind the jump.

 With the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 NHL SBN Entry Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins are proud to select, from the US National Development team, Rocco Grimaldi!


Rocco Grimaldi

--5'6, 163 pounds

--Will play at the University of North Dakota in 2011-12

For details of what Grimaldi is and could be, let's take a look at some scouting reports:

Western College Hockey blog:

The first thing that stands out about Rocco Grimaldi is his diminutive size. But Grimaldi is also one of the most exciting, dynamic forward prospects the US has produced in recent years. He has almost unparalleled speed, and plays with remarkable tenacity. He's not necessarily a pure scorer, but was able to lead the US NTDP team in scoring this past season. He's a center that can play effectively in any situation.


I still say Grimaldi is number one (among NTDP prospects) without a doubt on my list. I gave up on doubting Grimaldi for his size long ago, and would have him in the top ten, maybe even top five on my draft board. He's just the absolute fastest, most explosive player I've ever seen. He didn't score on this night, but created some great chances that I don't think any other player could have

The Scouting had Grimaldi ranked 18th overall, saying:

Easily one of the more skilled players available in the draft, Grimaldi has a proven track record of production at every level. Strong work ethic and dedication to the game have enabled him to develop skills in skating, passing, shooting and puck handling that could comprise a video on "How To…." All indications are that he’ll keep developing as he moves up the ladder. The only obvious knock is his size.

Jesse Marshall from Faceoff Factor also had Grimaldi ranked 18th:

If Rocco Grimaldi was 6’0 he’d be in the top 10 in this draft class, maybe even the top 5. However, that’s the story of Grimaldi’s life. At just 5’6, Grimaldi has the tools and attitude to be a scoring threat at the NHL level, but the size is what sets him apart from his peers. Grimaldi is an excellent skater, extremely strong, and exhibits both smarts and skills on the ice. He is a tenacious forechecker, has a solid shot, great passing ability, and is apt in his own zone. Committed to North Dakota for next season, this polarizing prospect will have the ability to prove at the next level that, despite his size, he can be an effective forward at the next level.

Noticing a trend?  Grimaldi's lack of size stands out- but almost every write-up of him credits a tremendous work ethic, great skill, and a willlingness to mix it up.

Any player who's still on the board at #23 has some question mark or limitation- for many it is work ethic, physical maturity (as in putting on weight or strength) or drive.  Grimaldi has that in spades.  In the NHL today, some of the best offensive players include Martin St. Louis, Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere and Tyler Ennis- all players who look like they couldn't get on roller-coasters compared to their contemporaries.

But all of those little players, to a degree, have an edge, are excellent skaters and think the game well, all combined with having great hands and skill.   Grimaldi seems to have that pedigree.

Is Grimaldi the next Marty St. Louis?  Probably not.  For every MSL there are a million guys like Brett Sterling, Chris Conner or Chris Bourque that can't hack it.  But for every 6'5 stud first round pick that makes it there are also a pile of busts in the list too of tall players that couldn't put it altogether either.

The Penguins are at a point where they can take a chance on skill and will and hope that Grimaldi has what it takes to be more in the Gionta/Ennis mold than a Sterling/Bourque type professional.  At 23rd overall, it seems like a risk worth taking in a fake draft.

For more on this mock draft, check out SB Nation's draft headquarters.