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When was the last time a Penguins draft pick paid off?

No Pittsburgh selection since Dominik Simon has skated in more than 30 NHL games.

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2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round 2-7
Newly drafted Penguin Zam Plante shakes hands with general manager Ron Hextall at the 2022 NHL draft on July 8.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s been seven years since the Penguins saw one of their draft picks graduate to a full-time role in the NHL.

No Penguins draft selections since 2015— when Dominik Simon’s name was called in the fifth round— has skated more than 30 NHL games. Only five Penguins picks over these last seven years have made their NHL debuts.

This low draft turnout isn’t surprising for a perennially competitive team, which had only selected in the first round five times in the decade before 2022. If anything, the surprise is that the Penguins actually used their first-round selection this year.

With seven years having passed since the Penguins added a draft pick to their regular roster, let’s take a look at the 16 Penguins draft picks who became legitimate NHL players during some of the strongest drafts in recent memory, between 2011 and 2015.

2011: D Joe Morrow (Round 1, Pick 23, 162 GP), D Scott Harrington (Round 2, Pick 54, 210 GP), RW Josh Archibald (Round 6, Pick 174, 243 GP), C Scott Wilson (Round 7, Pick 209, 193 GP)

Joe Morrow had not yet played an NHL game when he was traded in 2013 to the Dallas Stars for the pick which would eventually become Jake Guentzel. Scott Harrington skated in 10 Penguins games in 2014-15, then was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Phil Kessel that summer. So you could say the 2011 draft paid off in a big way... it just took a few years.

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits
Joe Morrow at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

2012: D Derrick Pouliot (Round 1, Pick 8, 213 GP), D Olli Maatta (Round 1, Pick 22, 534 GP), C Teddy Blueger (Round 2, Pick 52, 205 GP), C Oskar Sundqvist (Round 3, Pick 81, 288 GP), G Matt Murray (Round 3, Pick 83, 246 GP)

The Penguins used nine picks in the 2012 NHL draft, the most they’ve used in a single draft since the start of the seven-round draft in 2005.

On the first day of the draft, the Penguins dealt Jordan Staal (during his wedding) for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 pick in the draft.

The Penguins used the selection to pick Derrick Pouliot. (Players still waiting for their names to be called when the Penguins selected Pouliot: Filip Forsberg, Teuvo Teravainen and Jacob Trouba.)

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Round One
Derrick Pouliot dons a Penguins hat at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

2013: G Tristan Jarry (Round 2, Pick 44, 159 GP), LW Jake Guentzel (Round 3, Pick 77, 375 GP)

Stop me if you’re feeling déjà vu— the Penguins spent the 2013 offseason working on contract extensions for Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

But the summer of 2013 is most memorable because of the selection of Guentzel, who may go down as one of the best draft steals in franchise history, in the third round.

From former Penguins GM Ray Shero, via The Athletic’s Rob Rossi:

“We had four criteria for prospects. They were: hockey sense, speed, compete and character. Thank god size wasn’t one, because Jake was maybe 5-foot-7 and he might have weighed 150 pounds.

I still remember looking at Randy (Sexton) when it came to that pick and asking him, ‘We’re sure about this kid, right?’”

2013 NHL Draft - Portraits
Jake Guentzel poses after the 2013 NHL draft.

2014: RW Kasperi Kapanen (Round 1, Pick 22, 321 GP), RW Sam Lafferty (Round 4, Pick 113, 140), RW Anthony Angello (Round 5, Pick 145, 31 GP)

This was Jim Rutherford’s first draft, and who could have predicted it— the former GM of the Carolina Hurricanes picked the son of former Whaler/Hurricane Sami Kapanen, Kasperi Kapanen, as his first-round selection.

Kapanen was traded to Toronto for Phil Kessel in 2015, then was returned to the Penguins in August 2020 for Evan Rodrigues... only for Rodrigues to sign right back in Pittsburgh, two months later.

Oh, what a tangled web Penguins weave.

2014 NHL Draft - Portraits
Kapanen poses for an ominous photo after the 2014 NHL draft.

2015: RW Daniel Sprong (Round 2, Pick 46, 202 NHL GP), C Dominik Simon (Round 5, Pick 137, 256 GP)

The most recent Penguins draft picks to become full-time NHL players have been causing controversy in the fanbase ever since.

Sprong has bounced between three teams (Anaheim, Washington and Seattle) since he was traded for Marcus Pettersson in 2018. The persistent question: is his shot good enough to compensate for sometimes inconsistent play?

Simon left the Penguins after five seasons as a mostly fringe player, only to return during 2021 free agency, score three goals in 55 games with a minimal role for the Penguins, and get traded in February for Rickard Rakell.

Some Penguins fans said Simon and/or Sprong deserved more opportunities. Others argued they’d been given too many chances.

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits
Sprong poses after the 2015 NHL draft.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images