The Pittsburgh Penguins did not win the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, and as a result will be sticking with their expect pick at No. 14 overall.
My opinion on what they should do with that pick is already well established: They should aggressively shop it, either for immediate help now or by trading back and accumulating more draft picks since there is marginal difference between, say, the No. 14 overall pick and the No. 22 overall pick.
But it takes two teams to make a deal, and sometimes that can be tricky. So let us pretend that there is no deal to be made with that pick.
No player worthy of a trade.
No team that wants to move up.
The Penguins have to make a pick.
What sort of player can they realistically expect at No. 14 overall? That would be their highest pick since they selected Derrick Pouliot with the No. 8 overall pick back in 2012 (and that was acquired through a trade).
Well, let’s take a look back at the history of that pick.
Starting with the bare minimum expectation, unless you royally screw up the selection and the development process you are going to at least get somebody that is going to at least make the NHL. Of the 59 players that have been selected 14th overall, only seven of them failed to play even a single game in the NHL. Three of those players were the three most recent picks (Rutger McGroarty to Winnipeg in 2022, Isak Rosen to Buffalo in 2021 and Dylan Holloway to Edmonton in 2020) so it is quite possible, if not likely, they will at least get a look.
There have also been 36 players that have played in at least 300 NHL games (the equivalent of 3.5 NHL seasons) with another four (Joel Farabee, Cam York, Julius Honka, and Cal Foote) that should have a chance to eventually get there.
That is about a 60-65 percent chance of finding somebody that at least makes it through their entry-level contract as an NHL player. That is about what you might expect from that spot. Some potential, somebody that you are going to give a chance to stick in the NHL, but far from a guarantee that you will get a star.
Some of the more notable players taken in this spot include: Ken Dryden, Charlie McAvoy, Brent Seabrook, Sergei Gonchar, Jaden Schwartz, Devan Dubnyk, Adam Deadmarsh, Calle Johansson, and Kevin Shattenkirk.
A couple of stars, some good top-line forwards and top-pairing defenders, a pretty decent goalie, and one Hall of Fame legend. You are still probably only looking at about a 10 percent chance of a top-line player.
As of this writing, only 16 of the players taken in that spot scored 100 goals in the NHL and only five hit the 200-goal mark.
But how long does it take to get even that sort of a return on that pick?
Let’s look at some of the more prominent names in the history of this pick and how long it took them to really emerge as a productive player.
Just working in reverse order here, Joel Farabee, McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk are the most recent players from this pick to become consistent NHL players, with McAvoy becoming a bonafide star and franchise-type of player.
Farabee made his NHL debut for the Flyers one year later at the age of 19, and while he has shown some flashes of being a good top-six player, he has not really taken a massive step forward four years into his career. The Flyers are still waiting for that.
McAvoy is probably the best combination of a quick debut and an immediate impact. He made his NHL debut in the playoffs of his draft year (2016-17 season) and was aa full-time player at the start of the next season. By year three he was finishing in the top-10 of the Norris Trophy voting.
DeBrusk did not make his debut until two years after his draft year, stepping right into the lineup and scoring 16 goals and 43 points in 70 games as a rookie.
Going back a little further, you have a run of players that included Jamie Oleksiak, Jaden Schwartz, Dmitry Kulikov and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Schwartz, Oleksiak and Kulikov made relatively quick debuts (within two years) but struggled early in their careers. It took Oleksiak until his mid-20s and after changing teams a handful of times to finally find his place in the league, while Schwartz did not become a full-time, productive player until he was 21, four years after his draft year.
Shattenkirk has had an excellent career, but did not even make his NHL debut until he was 22 years old.
Among the other more prominent names you have defensemen Gonchar and Seabrook. Both of them took at least two years before they made an NHL debut, and another year or two before they really started to emerge.
So if the Penguins do hold onto their pick that is what you have to look forward to over the next few years. Within two or three years you might have Joel Farabee.
If you win the lottery and get exceedingly lucky you have a razor thin chance of finding the next Charlie McAvoy.
This, again, just re-emphasizes my point from the other day, and the point I have been making for years when it comes to using the first-round pick as trade bait. I understand that at some point you have to keep an eye on the future, but there is very little chance the player you select with the No. 14 overall pick is going to meaningfully impact your next rebuild. There is almost no chance you find an impact player that will still be helpful to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. You will probably get more value out of that pick by trading it for a current player, or probably have just as much of a chance finding the next Charlie McAvoy at No. 22 after you move back and gain an extra third-round pick.
Shop the pick! Shop it aggressively!