The Penguins haven’t picked as high as they did on Wednesday night at the 2023 NHL draft in over a decade. As such, they’ll hope to make it count with the opportunity to add a high-end player for the future.
With the 14th overall pick, Pittsburgh selected forward Brayden Yager from the WHL.
Here’s some notes from Sportsnet:
the eye-test tells you that Yager has an NHL shot and release. Is he going to be able to get into position to utilize that part of his game often enough in the NHL to have a significant impact?
If nothing else, Yager showed a more well-rounded game, winning more than 52 per cent of his faceoffs and playing with more detail in his own zone. He was relied on to play in tight situations, and responded well. The 2022 CHL Rookie of the Year wore a letter for the Moose Jaw Warriors, for Team White at the CHL/NHL Prospects Game, and with Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky.
Jason Bukala’s scouting report: Great hands and excellent vision. Has shown he can impact the game offensively as a shooter and playmaker. Aggressive directing pucks on net. Mechanics of his skating stride are fine, but he requires more strength and an extra gear off the rush.
Average to average-plus in the defensive zone. He identifies his responsibility, but his detail tends to range at times. His element is offence.
Yager scored 34 goals in the WHL in 2021-22 and then 28 goals this past season. He plays center but might shift to the wing at the pro level. His shot is definitely a strength, as seen in the highlight reel.
The Pens had their choice of several top forwards between Gabriel Perreault, Matthew Wood and Oliver Moore, among others — but clearly liked Yager the best and enough to tab him as their pick.