Yesterday marked a minor off-season milestone, with NHL teams needing to tender contracts to expiring graduating college player draft picks or lose the rights to them. Not unexpectedly, the Penguins saw their official ties with Penn State center Nikita Pavlychev (7th round 2015) and Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Ryan Jones (4th round, 2016) expire without a contract being signed.
We can confirm that none of the players on our list below were signed to EL contracts by their clubs, resulting in all 21 players now considered Unrestricted Free agents. https://t.co/y8EufHtU59— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 15, 2020
Nothing terribly noteworthy there, any mid-to-late NHL draft pick is always a big crapshoot and never guaranteed to pan out. In the case of Pavlychev and Jones, neither really developed a ton in the collegiate ranks, and both only projected even on draft day to be bottom-of-the-lineup NHL types in a perfect world anyways.
Pittsburgh has been active in signings in this realm earlier this year; signing 7th rounder in 2017 defenseman Will Reilly, a senior out of RPI who has developed a bit in recent years. The Pens also added undrafted collegiate players in Dartmouth star sophomore forward Drew O’Connor and Western Michigan senior defenseman Cam Lee.
Pittsburgh also added 6’6 Czech forward Radim Zohorna, as an undrafted FA signing, though it has been recently announced Zorhorna will stay with his Czech team for the start of the 2020-21 season. Understandable considering the European seasons are slated to start in September, as usual, but the covid delay for the NHL means 2020-21 will not begin until much later in the fall (if all goes well)!
Pavlychev, who spent formative youth years from 2011-14 in the Wilkes-Barre Knights system was reportedly offered an AHL only contract to join the WB/S Penguins but apparently declined and will seek other opportunities. With only 50 NHL contracts per year, the organization just didn’t see enough upside from a fairly stagnant scoring line by Pavlychev at Penn State.
Pavlychev and Jones didn’t work out, but adding O’Connor, Reilly and Lee in this cycle and year at least add some young talent into the system in the 21-23 year old area. Of them all, O’Connor at 6’3 and with some good wheels is considered to have the brightest immediate future.