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NHL Draft: Zeroing in on Penguins’ first round pick possibilities

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With the draft approaching, so too is Pittsburgh’s 21st overall selection.

Hamilton Bulldogs v Mississauga Steelheads Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images

With the 2019 NHL Draft quickly approaching, one of my favorite looks at scouting is TSN’s Bob McKenzie’s ranking. McKenzie polls 10 scouts across the league and compiles an average, giving a pretty good sense of how the league evaluators are ranking and sorting the prospects.

Because the Penguins are picking 21st, I cropped McKenzie’s final rankings a bit high and low.

First of all, it’s worth noting they have the top goalie prospect Spencer Knight at 12, which seems very high, and it’s been unusual as of late for a goalie to get drafted that high. Certainly on draft night, Penguins’ fans should be hoping Knight goes in the top-20, as that obviously means one more extra skater will be available at No. 21.

On this list at 21, forward Arthur Kaliyev would be a really tremendous development. Most scouting services will have him a bit higher, and Kaliyev is one of a few players at his age to score 50-plus goals in the CHL in his draft year. That kind of skill would be a wonderful pick at 21. Kaliyev went 16th overall in our network’s SB Nation mock draft, and you can read about that pick and learn more about the player here.

Similarly, I would think the Penguins will be thrilled if any defender in the 15-18 range on this list slipped a bit and were still on the board at 21. However, it’s tough to see that happening in reality.

Raphael Lavoie, Ryan Suzuki, and Bobby Brink are all names very familiar to those following this year’s draft, and worth knowing too if you’re a Pens’ fan. It wouldn’t be shocking for any of those guys to be in the mix to be selected by Pittsburgh at 21.

Forward Philip Tomasino seems to be rising a bit through the draft process and checks in at No. 22 for TSN, and that’s also a name to get to know. Tomasino has wonderful speed and some good hands, and went 24th overall in our SB Nation mock draft. To me, he fits the profile of what Pittsburgh would be interested in to add skating and hands to the mix of the organization on a right-hand shot that could project as a center or right wing in the pros.

The Penguins also released this video on one of their scouting meetings:

They obviously didn’t name names, but one comment I found very interesting was Sam Ventura (director of hockey research, A.K.A king stat guy) noting that one player the scouts liked in Pittsburgh might be a fair ranking, but could be a little high value-wise for the league.

If so, a trade down of a few picks could make sense to add an additional draft pick (as we mentioned here). It’s obviously unknown specifically who Ventura was talking about, but one name that does make sense for Pittsburgh, in a win-now mode, would be Brett Leason. Leason probably won’t be drafted until the tail-end of the first round. Twenty-one seems too high, but moving back a few spots makes sense. Leason is older and could turn pro for 2019-20, which fits in the Penguins’ needs better than a younger player that will take more time.

McKenzie has Pensburgh’s mock draft pick of Nils Hoglander ranked 35th on his list, which isn’t shocking since the TSN list never was very sweet on the Swedish winger. Hoglander, like many players in this range, probably could get picked 20th overall, he could get picked 40th overall, or anywhere in between, and it doesn’t change much. It just depends on which team really likes him and what picks they may have.

The debates will rage on up until draft night — and that’s independent of the possibility the team trades the pick for immediate NHL help right now — which is always in the mix.

I’d think the Penguins will be very fortunate if the draft plays out like McKenzie’s consensus goes, as Kaliyev is still on the board, but certainly the names of Lavoie, Suzuki, Brink, Tomasino, and Leason should be ones to zero in on about right now for Pittsburgh.