Another June has come and one of the coolest features on the network, to me, is the SB Nation Mock Draft. For the 3rd time in the last 4 years your pals at Pensburgh will be sitting this one out, since the Penguins sent this year's first rounder to Toronto for Phil Kessel. Being as Kessel is a Conn Smythe front-runner and the Pens are closing in on the Stanley Cup, we don't mind taking the year off at all.
But, don't be fooled, Pittsburgh is actually in a pretty decent position for the 2016 NHL Draft. The Pens have 2 picks inside the top 60 for the first time since 2012. The Pens don't have a 3rd rounder (traded to Edmonton for Justin Schultz ) but will have picks in the 4th, 5th and 6th rounds. Pittsburgh lost their 7th rounder in the trade to St. Louis that brought Ian Cole over.
Since we won't participate in the mock draft, might as well look back and build off of this from last year as to what happened in past mocks.
2010 draft, 20th pick
Who was still on the board for us: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brock Nelson, Beau Bennett, Tyler Toffoli, Jaden Schwarz
The Pens in reality drafted: Bennett
Who the Pens passed on: Kuznetsov, Charlie Coyle, Kevin Hayes
In the 2010 draft (found here) a bunch of great forwards went in the back end of the 1st round.. Unfortunately though, we missed on them for the blog. And, I guess you could say the Penguins did too, being as Bennett's career has been marked by injuries and not finding a meaningful niche yet.
Also for full disclosure, I voted for Nelson but Frank and GoPens outnumbered me on McFarland. McFarland played 46 games in the AHL last season scoring 10 goals and 9 assists, and at age 23 doesn't seem like much of an NHL prospect at this point.
Every year is seemingly Bennett's "make or break" season, but he always breaks. We'll see if the Pens offer him a contract this summer or not, but not too much to cry about looking back on this. Bennett was a good gamble to take, it's a shame he never panned out like he could have due to all his injuries.
2011 draft, 23rd pick
We drafted (reasons here): Rocco Grimaldi (for the 2nd year in a row, our pick was taken exactly 33rd overall by Florida Panthers)
Who was still on the board for us: Brandon Saad, Jonas Brodin
The Pens in reality drafted: Joe Morrow
Who the Pens passed on: Vladislav Namestnikov, Tomas Jurco,
In the 2011 draft (which you can re-live here) was a dud at the bottom end of the first round. The Penguins and ex-GM Ray Shero get a lot of grief for drafting another defenseman, yet within 10 picks of their choice only Namestnikov and Rickard Rickell have played more than 25 NHL games, and neither of them were NHL regulars in the playoffs last season, which makes it seem a little harsh to pile on where the Pens picked. Aside from taking Jurco (who went #21 in the SBN draft, and #35 in the real draft) there wasn't a much better option for the Pens on the board besides Saad, who scared off teams until Chicago picked him #43 overall.
As far as our pick, there's still reason to hope for Grimaldi. Last season was his first professional season and he played well in the AHL (14g+28a for 42p in 64 games) plus 7 games with Florida (1g+0a). He still has the potential to be an NHL regular, but 4 years after the draft, he's not there yet. Which, given where the Penguins are in their organizational life cycle (i.e. trying to win now) he wasn't the ideal choice. Saad, still on the board, would have been. But with memories of Angelo Esposito fresh, drafting another falling prospect would have been risky and pretending different is a lot of hindsight.
Morrow, now 23, played 33 games for the Boston Bruins this season (1g+6a). He seems like a fringe NHLer at this point that won't be more than a 3rd pairing guy.
Grimaldi, my favorite, again split time between the NHL Florida Panthers (scoring 5 points in 20 games) and the AHL (scoring 33 points in 52 games), so he's also failed to establish himself as an every-game player.
2012 draft, 22nd overall
We drafted (reasons here): Slater Koekkeok (actually picked #10 overall by Tampa)
Who was still on the board for us: Hampus Lindholm
The Pens in reality drafted: Olli Maatta (taken 14th overall in the SBN mock)
Who the Pens passed on: No one of importance, Maatta was the best possible pick at #22 given how the draft played out
We didn't know that the Pens would trade Jordan Staal and get the 8th pick in part back, so only the Pens real pick counts here. Here's the 2012 SBN mock draft.
Figuring Shero's penchant for draft puck moving defenseman was a trend that couldn't be ignored, we liked Koekkeok, who had all the tools of the usual Pens pick. He went 10th overall in the draft, so that was a good eye for draft value. His career hasn't quite panned out yet thanks to injuries, so we'll see.
Fortunately the Penguins got Maatta, who proved to be a home run pick in every sense of the word. Getting the extra pick and taking a PMD in Derrick Pouliot remains to be seen, considering forwards Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen were all on the board at the time of the pick.
My pick of Koekkeok in reality was a surprisingly pretty solid player for Tampa in the series against the Pens last month, it will be interesting to see if that launches his career.
Maatta, is of course Maatta, and will start a $4 million a year contract next season. Great pick by Shero there.
2013 draft, no pick
The Penguins traded this for Jarome Iginla. Calgary drafted forward Morgan Klimchuk with the 28th pick that would have been Pittsburgh's, Klimchuk has played in the WHL the past two seasons and figures to begin his pro career in the AHL next season.
At this point, every year that goes by is really sad for Calgary for what they turned their franchise icon Iginla into. Klimchuk, now 21, was billed as a scoring winger who ended up scoring all of 9 points (3g+6a) in 55 games in the AHL this season, which to be fair was his first. We'll see if he takes a jump forward but there's a long way to go.
Of the other 2 low-end prospects they got, one has left the organization (Ben Hanowski who played in Germany this season) and the other, 24 year old Ken Agostino was Calgary's AHL leading scorer but doesn't figure to be much of an NHL factor.
2014 draft, 22nd pick
We drafted (reasons here): Nikita Scherbak (actually picked #26 overall by Montreal)
Who was still on the board for us: David Pastrnak
The Pens in reality drafted: Kasperi Kapanen (taken 11th overall in the SBN mock)
Who the Pens passed on: Pastrnak, Scherbak, Josh Ho-Sang
In last year's SBN mock draft, we were in the right neighborhood (potential skill forward) but couldn't take Kapanen since he was already gone in our draft. Scherbak had a strong season in the WHL and looks like just as good a prospect right now, so for this minor storyline will be interesting to re-visit in a couple years to see which player develops into a better NHL pro, with the obviously still out so soon after the draft.
Kapanen got flipped to Toronto in the Kessel deal, of course. He played 9 (scoreless) NHL games this season. His career progress, of course, will be monitored very closely by many in Western PA but going to the SCF the very next season helps minimize the loss of a promising prospect.
2015 draft, no pick
The Penguins traded this for David Perron. Edmonton will be picking #16 here (unless they trade it).
That pick ended up being Matthew Barzal and ended up with the Islanders. Edmonton traded #16 to NYI for Griffin Reinhart and the #33 pick.
Maybe, just maybe we'll have a pick next year.