In June, the Penguins will select 14th, the franchise’s highest pick since Ray Shero grabbed Derrick Pouliot with the eighth selection 11 years ago.
Whether the Penguins trade pick No. 14 or keep it, which players are likely to be available in that range?
Based on mock drafts from Tankathon, The Athletic, Daily Faceoff, and Yahoo Sports, here are a few of the most interesting prospects who could still be on the board in the mid teens. (Stats from USA Hockey NTDP, WHL, EliteProspects.)
Ryan Leonard, LW/C/RW (USA-18, USNTDP)
5’11”, 190 lbs. Last USHL season: 51-43—94 in 17 games
Leonard has shown off his flexibility by playing on both wings as well as at center during a 51-goal season for the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2022-23, and he scored an overtime golden goal at the 2023 U18 World Championship in Basel on April 30. He has committed to play for Boston College for 2023-24.
From The Athletic’s Corey Pronman: “His playmaking isn’t great but there’s vision and finishing ability in his game to score at higher levels. Leonard may never truly stand out at either end of the ice, but he will never give a coach a reason to sit him and projects as a quality top-six wing.”
Oliver Moore, C (USA-18, USNTDP)
5’11”, 188 lbs. Last USHL season: 31-44—75 in 61 games
There’s a reason Moore racked up 44 assists last season. Any scouting report immediately mentions his speed, which he showed off while centering the second line of the 2022-23 USNTDP. He is committed to the University of Minnesota for the next season.
From Smaht Scouting’s Austin Garret: “He is an elite skater, is exceptional in defending the neutral zone and a great support in the defensive/offensive zone and has an underrated shot. My only gripe with Moore is his pension for attacking the zone at his top speed at all times. More speed variation that navigates his attack to the middle of the ice and opens up secondary rush options will make him a truly dynamic center prospect.”
Oliver Moore is so fast and shifty pic.twitter.com/KRrdLtlbfA— Dan Silver (@dsilver88) April 25, 2023
Samuel Honzek, C (Vancouver, WHL)
6’3”, 186 lbs. Last WHL season: 23-33—56 in 43 games
Honzek is big, he can skate fast enough to be a presence on back checks, and he logs time on both the power play and the penalty kill for the Vancouver WHL team. It has been a successful first season in North America for the Slovakian forward.
From Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis: “I don’t think Honzek has a huge offensive ceiling, but I think he’s going to have a long career. He throws punishing hits, has a fantastic two-way presence and a great release on his shot.”
He didn't score but what a play by @WHLGiants Samuel Honzek. The #2023NHLDraft prospect is so smooth and has a great ability of being able to change speeds effortlessly. pic.twitter.com/WBRxmFTZPN— Adam Kierszenblat (@Adamkblat) December 5, 2022
Riley Heidt, LW (Prince George, WHL)
5’11”, 178 lbs. Last WHL season: 25-72—97 in 68 games
Heidt’s 72 assists tied Connor Bedard for first in the WHL this season. If that’s not an eye-catching stat, what is? That total is certainly slightly inflated by Heidt’s league-leading 39 power-play assists, but it’s also thanks to playmaking abilities which have made him an exciting player to watch in the WHL this season.
From Yahoo Sports’ Ian Kennedy: “Heidt is creative, finding seams where seemingly none exist, manipulating passing and shooting lanes, and finishing with a cannon.”
Axel Sandin Pellikka, D (Skellefteå, SHL)
5’11”, 181 lbs. Last SHL season: 2-3—5 in 22 games
When looking at that stat line, keep in mind that the SHL is a league of adults, and Sandin Pellikka just turned 18 in March. He also put up 16 goals and 20 assists in 31 J20 games this season. His ability to move the puck made him a notable boost on offense on his junior team’s power play. He has signed a contract extension with Skellefteå through 2024-25.
From Recruit Scouting’s Joe Maciag: “Sandin-Pellikka is a quick, offensive minded defenceman... Sandin-Pellikka combines electric top speed, quick acceleration and solid edge work to elevate his game to the next level.”
This goal was all Sandin-Pellikka. This kid is really good. pic.twitter.com/TQEaGtc0zG— TLY (@TheLibertyYell) April 30, 2023
David Reinbacher, D (EHC Kloten, Swiss League)
6’2”, 187 lbs. Last Swiss league season: 3-9—22 in 46 games
Another teenage defenseman playing in an adult league, Reinbacher has been an impressive presence in the Swiss League. His large frame makes him very effective in collisions, and he has one of the most accurate shots of this draft class. He is expected to go higher than this, but is projected in some mock drafts to drop into the teens.
From Yahoo Sports’ Ian Kennedy: “Reinbacher could surprise some with his nearly NHL-ready game. He’s six-foot-two, and flashing offensive upside against top pros in Switzerland as a teenager.”
David Reinbacher (#64 blue) (Draft 2023) just overskating former NHLer Alex Formenton, following up on his shots, winning a puck against Formenton and Former NHler Tim Heed before serving his teammate on a plate. pic.twitter.com/OOjR1KDavy— Thibaud Chatel (@Thibaud_Chatel) January 24, 2023
It’s been a long time since the Penguins have had a top prospect in the system, and there are some intriguing choices on this list.
However: most, if not all, of these prospects will require at least a year of development in college, the minors or a different league. That doesn’t mesh well with the Penguins, who are in win-now mode as they try to eke another great season from the core.
What would you like to see the Penguins do with this 14th pick?