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2014 NHL Draft: Pittsburgh Penguins Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the 2014 NHL Draft happy to put the past six weeks behind them and look to the future.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Since unceremoniously blowing another 3 games to 1 series lead six weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been team turmoil. Their general manager (who, oh by the way was 2013 GM of the year) was fired and replaced by a 65-year old who openly admitted in his press conference that he would probably only have the job for 2-3 years.

Their coach (who, yes got to 250 regular season wins faster than any coach in NHL history) was also canned, replaced by a 57-year old with no NHL head coaching experience, after the aforementioned new GM couldn’t reel in other top candidates for the job.

It’s been a messy offseason, but perhaps with the 2014 NHL entry draft, Pens fans will get some good news tonight. Let’s preview what to expect:

Television and Viewing Info

What: 2014 NHL Draft

When: 7:00pm, Friday, June 27 & 10:00am, Saturday, June 28

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Watch: NBC Sports Network

Stream: NBC Live Extra

Pens Picks

The Pens lost a few- they have no second round (due to the Douglas Murray trade) and no 3rd round (due to the Lee Stempniak trade). They also traded away a 5th rounder, but got an extra 5th rounder from Anaheim (in exchange for Ben Lovejoy).

  • 22nd (1st round)
  • 113 (4th round)
  • 145 (5th round)
  • 173 (6th round)
  • 203 (7th round)

Potential First Round Targets

Good news for fans who want the Pens to take a forward: most of the players ranked most commonly in the 20-30th range seem to be mostly forwards. Check out Jesse Marshall’s awesome and comprehensive Top 50 draft rankings to familiarize yourself with some of the names, and then we’ll see who the Pens end up with.

Some potential Penguins targets could be:

Josh Ho-Sang: an extremely talented skill player out of the OHL, but one who comes with potential attitude question marks.

Nikita Scherbak: WHL rookie of the year, has size and a great shot

Adrian Kempe: a terrific two-way player from Sweden, has been compared to Brandon Dubinsky

Nikolay Goldobin: a fantastically skilled forward who jumped to the OHL this past year

Sonny Milano: smaller but speedy skilled forward going the NCAA route

Alex Tuch: At 6’4, 215 he could be a great power forward prospect with a good shot

Trades Possibilities

Last year it was Tyler Kennedy getting dealt to San Jose, two years ago the Pens moved Jordan Staal to Carolina, will any big trades be in the works this draft? GM Jim Rutherford has only recently turned his attention to players after getting his coaching staff sorted out, hopefully a trade isn’t made in haste and any move that happens will improve the team going forward.

James Neal has been a name in the rumor mill, but he’s by far the Pens best trading chip- any trade involving him would have to bring a serious return or the team will be in trouble next season.

Around the league there is the possibility for several teams to shuffle the deck by trading away top-tier talent: Vancouver is talking about honoring Ryan Kesler 's trade request, Ottawa may move Jason Spezza, who also asked for a trade,  Evander Kane is favoriting tweets about going to Philly, all hell is breaking loose. The Pens can't and won't be factors in the majority of what is going on, but there will be movement around the league. Welcome to silly season.

Draft strategy

When Ray Shero was fired last month, his assistant (and current associate GM) Jason Botterill spear-headed draft meetings with the scouts, who have been in place for many years and have been maligned for their results and often deferring very heavily to North American players, and often collegiate ones that take several years to develop before even turning professional. It’s important to remember these scouts are still making the calls and all decisions will be based off the information they provide.

Whether or not any strategy or seas-change will happen immediately- like the Pens trying to dip more into Europe with their high pick, remains to be seen. Ideally though, the scouts will find a good player left on the board who will help the Pens for many years to come, regardless of where or how they get him. With no second or third round picks, the margin for error is that much smaller- Pittsburgh badly needs to hit the mark with their first pick tonight.