As of right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins don't pick until the 2nd round, but they have two picks in the 2nd round for the first time since 2004 (when they took Swedish forward Johannes Salmonsson and a defenseman named Alex Goligoski). One out of two isn't bad in the NHL Draft this deep, so who will be on the board at #55 and #60?
It's really impossible to say. As Bob McKenzie said in his great draft preview
It would also be fair to say that perhaps from Nos. 20, certainly 25 anyway, through to almost 50, there's a high degree of interchangeability
After about #25 this year, things will go crazy, which they always do. This could work to the Pens advantage. Look back no further than last year; Pittsburgh got Daniel Sprong at #46 overall. Sprong was as high as #16 overall by McKeens, #17 by ESPN's Corey Pronman and was ranked #33 by McKenzie's scout consensus.
In this range, some teams are looking for certain things. Maybe size. Maybe skating. Maybe a puck-mover. Sprong fell for concerns over his defensive ability and play away from the puck. No matter what two players the Pens get at the back of the second round, they're sure to have some knock on them as to why they lasted this long. But, and this is the exciting part, they're also likely to have an unknown and potentially high ceiling.
Below are the #45 - 60 ranked players on McKenzie's board. We'll spotlight them since at least a handful should be around when the Pens pick at #55 and #60, at least according to conventional wisdom. But if they all get snatched up early and Pittsburgh is able to draft a player higher in Uncle Bob's ranking (like #33 Sprong was last year), that's all the better.
Here's a couple guys who pop out to our untrained eye:
All that looks pretty good. As a personal preference, I usually lean towards players with better skating + hockey sense, but you can't teach hands. If Mascherin is anything close to Mike Cammalleri he would be a top-10 pick, but if that's the unlikely best case scenario, I still like it.
It's never wise to draft for a need, but the Penguins are a little low on 18-19-20 year old defensemen right now in their prospect system, but Fox looks like a great pick in this range, if he's still around for it. He's not the biggest player at 5'10, 185 but that is more than enough if his puck-skills are as good as advertised.
Really, though, with impressive hockey sense and hands rankings, it would hardly be surprising to see Fox selected 15-20 picks before the Pens are up, given the NHL's shift to emphasize defensemen who can think the game and move the puck over ones with size and muscle.
This is a very interesting kid - he was only the 4th player to be granted "exceptional status" and be allowed to join the Canadian Juniors a year early at age 15. The other 3 - John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid were all clear-cut #1 overall picks in their NHL draft. Day's development has tailed off, big time. But not everyone develops evenly and Day still has time to make his name as a pro.
In a way this seems like an Angelo Esposito type pick - you never want to take a guy who peaks at 15 or 16 years old. But Day gained notoriety because he was a very good young player. If he could be a very good professional as well, the Penguins should consider him if he's still around when they pick. 6'2, 228 and he can skate really well, what's not to like about that?
What's not listed here is he's 6'2, 210, leading me to believe he could be off the board before the Penguins pick, that's great size for such a young player. High rankings in hockey sense and competitiveness lead me to believe this guy might be able to play a lower 6 NHL role if he can't crack the top-6 as a scorer. For this point in the draft, getting an NHL'er, period, would be a good thing. Morrison led the USHL in goals and points this past season, and like Bryan Rust will be going to Notre Dame.
So there you have a couple of names to keep an eye on. The NHL draft is way too difficult to handicap or briefly preview when you pick so late in the 2nd round, but what we do know is the Pens should get some interesting, if not imperfect prospects to add to the organization this weekend.