The first round of the draft is now less than three weeks away (June 28th) and while there’s still plenty of time to go, now feels like as good a time as any to consider what the Penguins could do if Kyle Dubas decides to hold onto the pick. Planning for the future was cited extensively by Dubas at his opening press conference last week, so now more than ever the chances of Pittsburgh keeping and making a pick seem as high as they have been. (Famous last words, no doubt).
Anyways, the TSN list compiled by Bob McKenzie is a great resource and often a very good list since they are surveying a good number of scouts across the league and getting a very good sense of the general opinions out there. McKenzie only has his final top-12 out as of now, but with Pittsburgh picking 14, it’s not too hard to get from here to there.
The don’t worry about it, they’re not going to be there division
These players will be picked ahead of when the Pens are up, no sense in considering them:
- Connor Bedard
- Adam Fantilli
- Will Smith
- Leo Carlsson
- Matvei Michkov
- Dalibor Dvorsky
- Ryan Leonard
- (10) David Reinbacher
We’ll simply erase seven forwards plus one defender in Reinbacher (ranked 10th by TSN) as surely off the board in the first 13 picks and move on. If any somehow, someway ended up available at No. 14, they’re an instant pick. But something says that even if Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli have a Laremy Tunsil-like draft night, they still aren’t going to be around for too much longer.
The hold your breath and hope they fall division
9. Zach Benson
10. Gabe Perreault
Both of these players are diminutive but highly-skilled with big upsides. This would be the type of home run swing selection. In the NHL draft it’s not uncommon for even the TSN list to not be completely predictive of what will happen — and a lack of defenders being ranked highly stands out. Defensemen like Tom Willander and/or Axel-Sandin Pellikka could easily go in the top-13, which means forwards like this could be available.
Now we’re talking
11. Colby Barlow
12. Matthew Wood
Unranked: Oliver Moore, Nate Danielson, Brayden Yager, Samuel Honzek, Daniil But
Most of these names, save maybe one or two, will be on the table for the Penguins to consider at No 14, unless there’s the unlikely event that picks 1-13 end up being 12 forwards, which doesn’t seem believable for how NHL teams operate.
If given odds, in fact, the chances one of the seven in this category ending up as Pittsburgh’s pick at No. 14 could be really high (assuming, of course, the Pens do keep the pick).
To that end, let’s check out The Athletic’s new mock draft:
Today's NHL mock is a two-round “If I were GM” mock draft.@m_bultman, @coreypronman and @scottcwheeler have put on their GM hats, studied their own draft lists and team depth charts, and made decisions as if they were making the picks.https://t.co/1I586OgpDq— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) June 8, 2023
They selected Honzek for the Penguins. Wood, Barlow, Moore, Yager and Pellikka were still all available for Pittsburgh to potentially select if they wanted.
The good news for Kyle Dubas is that on draft day at least, he can’t go wrong. The Pens don’t have a talented goal scorer in the system like Barlow or Wood. They don’t have the size and upside of a player like Honzek anywhere. A center like Moore or Yager would also instantly become the best forward prospect in the system, and by a country mile, from the second their name would be announced as the pick. Or, if he goes to defense, Pellikka would be the best right-handed defensive prospect around, and probably the only real one at this point too.
The course of development and time will determine if the pick actually has anything to add, but given the absolute threadbare nature of Pittsburgh’s prospect stock right now, they can’t go wrong with no matter what direction they go at No. 14. The challenge over the next few weeks will be to attempt to figure out which of the options available have the best chance of turning into an NHL difference maker and selecting that name, no matter who it could be or what position they play.