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2023 NHL Draft: Penguins select defenseman Emil Pieniniemi in third round

The Pens use their second selection in 2023 on a surprising defender

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Penguins used their second pick in the 2023 draft (No. 91 overall, third round) to help boost the organization with a pick on defenseman Emil Pieniniemi. The Pens were supposed to pick one spot higher at #90, but opted to make a trade with the New York Rangers and pick up a seventh round draft pick in 2024 in order to drop down one pick.

Pieniniemi is a 6’2”, 176 pound left handed defender from Finland. He was ranked the 32nd European skater by Central Scouting and drafted far higher than that, which shows you what the Penguins think about his upside and future.

The Hockey News liked him a bit more than most too, ranking him #76 and saying in part:

At 6-foot-2, he has the size of a modern NHL defenseman, but he is still very raw and needs to develop many aspects of his overall game from on-ice awareness to speeding up his decision-making before he will be ready to take the next step in his career.

There are plenty of positives to his game, of course, including solid skating and a great two-way gameplan that allows him to turn defensive responsibility into offensive potential when he transitions cleanly up the ice.

In fact, while at the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation U18 World Championship, Pieniniemi played a significant role for Team Finland, where he acted as one of the backstops to their blue line. In fact, he was named the team’s best player in their quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia, when they were eliminated from the tournament.

Patrick Bacon at Top Down Hockey, well, didn’t like him as much:

Barring trades, Pittsburgh picks next in the fifth round, with subsequent picks in the sixth and two in the seventh round to finish up their 2023 draft class.