After drafting a goaltender and a forward with their first two picks, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally turned to their defense. We talked about 3rd round pick Connor Hall (the player selected in the deal that sent Beau Bennett to New Jersey), now here's the rest of the draft.
4th round - Ryan Jones, defenseman, USHL
Pens head scout Randy Sexton take:
Ryan played in the USHL, he’s been through the draft a couple of times, little bit of a late bloomer, 6-foot-3, he’s extremely mobile like Hall and plays with a real edge. He’s going to be going to the University of Nebraska-Omaha next year."
At age 20, he is a late bloomer and headed to Nebraska-Omaha. This will be a pick to make and pretty much forget about since he won't be done cooking for several years, and we'll have to see how he looks at age 22-23 to see if he has realistic NHL aspirations.
He's been said to be more of a physical, defensive defenseman type which has drawn groans from the analytic world (that's never seen him play), so we'll see what happens.
5th round - Niclas Almari, defenseman
Almari is a little bit like Oskar Sundqvist from a physical perspective. Tall but very lean. Oskar is in year 4 of the development program and kind of close to knocking on the door. Almari will be the same. He’s tall, but he’s very slender, very lean. He’s an excellent skater, he’s real smooth-skating, puck-moving transitional type D-man. Don’t know if he’ll ever play on our power play, maybe in a secondary nature. But certainly a mobile puck-moving, transitional type D-man."
Almari was ranked #62 for European skaters by Central Scouting. As you can tell from the comments above, he's definitely a long-term project and will have to add considerable weight and strength before he's ready for the NHL. But at age 18, that's only natural.
6th round - Joseph Masonius, defensemen
Extremely mobile. Not quite the same size as Ryan or Connor Hall, but very mobile. His puck skills are fine. And he also plays with some bite. It was a great example of a kid who played at the U.S. development program, was buried a bit behind some of the higher-end guys two years ago but when he got to Hockey East in UConn this year he had the opportunity to play a more prominent role and play with a lot of confidence and was really their go-to guy on the backend as a freshman
Boxcars don't mean much, but as a freshmen at UConn, Masonius had 6 goals and tacked on 15 assists. For a first year, 18/19 year old competing in the Hockey East conference, that is impressive. For the final pick of the 6th round, the Pens did well here to grab a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman.
Overall, size was definitely a common theme in this Penguins draft; every prospect they added at least was above average height/weight. This team didn't pick until almost the end of the second round at #55, so they didn't have a chance to add a true first-round skilled talent, so they seemed to concentrate on a "meat and potatoes" type support draft. Time will tell how many solid professionals they can develop out of this class.
And, hey, not to get too excited too early since it's a full year away but as of right now Pittsburgh has all of their picks in 2017, including a first rounder! (And they also have Arizona's 7th, courtesy of the Plotnikov trade from earlier this year).