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Round 1 of the NHL draft: the loneliest time for the Penguins

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Lots of sitting, waiting, watching, wishing for the Pens on day 1 of the NHL draft. So we look back at our own previous mock drafts

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Ryan Yorgen/NHLI via Getty Images

Round one of the 2021 NHL draft is tonight, but unless the Penguins swing a trade, they will once again be on the periphery of the event, with no picks planned.

With little to look forward to tonight, we might as well look back at our draft history in SBN Mock drafts. You can see results of the 2021 mock draft here to get a sense of who our member blogs liked for their team.

Pensburgh mock draft history

2021: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

2020: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

(Since the Pens’ trade in 2020 happened later on to lose the pick, we would have had selected Connor Zary in our SBN mock at No. 15, if Pittsburgh had not traded the pick to So that will be fun to track to see his development vs. adding an immediate help in Kasperi Kapanen [worked out great in 2020-21 with Kapanen producing a lot of points])

Early commentary: My projected, ill-fated pick of Zary at 15 (he went 24th to Calgary in the real world) would have been off to a pretty good start, Zary scored 7 points (3G+4A) in 9 AHL games and 24 points (6G+18A) in 15 games in the WHL in last year’s jacked up season that saw junior aged players allowed to play in the AHL with their own seasons shortended.

2019:

Pensburgh drafts Nils Hoglander 21st overall.

Pens’ actual pick: Samuel Poulin
Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: too soon to say
Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: too soon to say

Pensburgh mock grade: Incomplete, but we’re about to claim a victory. Hoglander made his NHL debut in 2020-21 and was instantly an eye-catching player, scoring 27 points (13G+14A) in 56 games with Vancouver and finishing 8th in the voting for rookie of the year.

Hoglander looks well on his way to becoming, if not a star NHL player than certainly at least a productive top line winger. On the other side, Poulin will turn pro now, and could push for a spot now in his draft+3 season, but this is a (rare) pick we can feel proud about...As of now for the short-term, the Pens would have been better off with our pick than their own.

2018: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

2017

Pensburgh: We used draft picks to trade up from 31st overall to 23rd overall with Arizona, and selected defenseman Callan Foote (who ended up getting picked 14th overall by Tampa in real life).

Penguins action: they traded their pick down and Oskar Sundqvist to move down to 51st overall and to get Ryan Reaves and, well, that didn’t work out so good.
Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: Robert Thomas (STL in reality)
Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: A lot since they traded out of the first round

Pensburgh mock grade: Incomplete, but trending well. Foote, 22, played 35 regular season games for NHL Tampa this season, but none in the playoffs. Moving forward he could well be a cheap, young, talented option for the Lightning as they reload.

2016: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

2015: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

2014

Pensburgh: At 22nd overall we mock drafted winger Nikita Scherbak (who ended up going 26th to Montreal in reality).

Penguins action: The Pens passed on Scherbak to take Kasperi Kapanen 22nd overall, traded him one year later for Phil Kessel and then re-acquired him six years after initially drafting him
Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: Kapanen, David Pastrnak, Jared McCann Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: Pastrnak

Pensburgh mock grade: F. In the draft writeup, I said, “finding a potential skilled winger seems like a no-brainer, so that’s what we’ll set out to do.” Unfortunately, I took Scherbak, who only played 37 career NHL games and ended up back in the KHL for 2019-20. I missed on Pastrnak, who was the player in theory I was searching for but back in 2014 I couldn’t tell where the future Rocket Richard winner was. Then again, many NHL teams couldn’t either, Pastrnak went 25th overall in the real draft. I like the path and theory of what I was trying to do, but it’s all about executing the idea. For that, it’s a failing grade.

2013: team traded pick, no mock draft made :(

2012:

Pensburgh: At 22nd, we mock picked defenseman Slater Koekkoek (actually picked #10 overall by Tampa). This mock draft did not include the 8th overall pick (Jordan Staal trade) which was made on draft night and not known.

Penguins action: Olli Maatta (who was taken #14 in the mock).
Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: Hampus Lindholm, Tom Wilson
Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: Brady Skjei

Pensburgh mock grade: D. Really the way this mock draft played out made it tougher to do much better than we did. Koekkoek is on team #3 and has 167 career NHL games and looks like a 6/7 defender. Ideally you want more out of a first round pick, even towards the end of the round. Lindholm (who went 6th overall in reality) should have been the pick here by us. We whiffed on it. Kinda like 2014, right idea, wrong player, but on draft day in reality Koekkoek did go 10th overall, so without hindsight and knowing how the future played out, we at least drafted a well-regarded prospect.

2011:

Pensburgh: Going 23rd overall, we picked forward Rocco Grimaldi in the mock, who ended up going #33 to Florida in the real thing.

Penguins action: The Pens took defenseman Joe Morrow in the real draft.
Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: Jonas Brodin, Brandon Saad
Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: Saad, Philip Danault, Richard Rakell

Pensburgh mock grade: C-. Grimaldi’s career looked like it was going no where, until he got to Nashville three years ago. He’s now played 157 career NHL games as a Predator, quietly getting to double digits in goals each of the last two seasons and also adding in as a sneaky-efficient energy line punch. We agonized over whether or not to take Saad (who had a horrible and down draft-year) and passed. That was a mistake!

2010:

Pensburgh: At 20th overall, Pensburgh I got outvoted (wanted Brock Nelson and have email trail to show it!) but the other former editors agreed to take winger John McFarland.

Penguins action: Beau Bennett

Best available picks in mock draft we didn’t take: Evgeni Kuznetsov, Tyler Toffoli, Brock Nelson
Best available picks in the real draft the Pens missed on: Nelson, Kuznetsov, Kevin Hayes
Pensburgh mock grade: F. McFarland played three NHL games, but was mostly a career ECHL/AHL level player who retired after 2018-19. The Pens unfortunately didn’t do much better with Bennett, who played 200 career NHL games but seemingly never really got on track.

The takeaway? NHL drafting is hard when you’re selecting from the 20th-30th. Maybe next year under the new direction of Ron Hextall the Penguins (and Pensburgh!) will be participating in the 2022 first round.

Pittsburgh does have some picks on Saturday, when the NHL holds the draft for rounds 2-7.