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A look at how much a top-10 pick could help the Penguins

The Penguins look on track in a few months to add what could be a major piece of their future

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Ryan Yorgen/NHLI via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins are sitting in some territory for a draft pick that you can’t quite call uncharted with a long enough memory, but certainly waters that they haven’t been in recently.

Even following last night’s win to Jake Guentzel and the Carolina Hurricanes (still forces an “oof” doesn’t it?), the Pens bumped up to he eleventh position for 2024 draft pick, courtesy of Tankathon.

That throws a wrench in this idea, since if Pittsburgh’s pick is 11th or higher, it goes to San Jose as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. The Penguins were tracking towards a top 10 pick prior to picking up an OT loss in Colorado and a win over Carolina.

As mentioned before, the revamp/rebuild/retool or whatever you want to call it in Pittsburgh could be turbo-charged by the 2024 NHL entry draft. If the aforementioned Hurricanes make the Stanley Cup Final, the pick in the 49th spot cashes up to the 31st/32nd position for the Pens, courtesy a condition of the Guentzel trade.

That means, at best, Pittsburgh could have three selections in the first 40 or 41 picks. At “worst”, at least for the 2024 draft, the Pens would send their first rounder to SJ and only end up with two second round picks in the drft.

Up until now, you’ve probably noticed that today we’re operating under the assumption that Pittsburgh is keeping their 2024 first round pick, if they have that option. Due to the value of a top-10 pick, that’s a given. Even if the 2025 pick could be higher, teams don’t plan for that. You take the top-10 pick right in front of you, not dread being a worse club next year.

Why is that? There are several reasons that the Pens can, should and will hold onto what is likely would probably be a pick in the 8th-10th overall range in 2024 and kick the Sharks a 2025 first round pick, if the Pens’ slump down the rest of the season puts them in position for it.

For starters, let’s take a look at the types of players available in the 8-10 range in recent years.

Recent 8th-10th overall picks

Draft Year Pick Player Designation
Draft Year Pick Player Designation
2016 8 Alex Nylander Bust
9 Mikhail Sergachev Mega Hit
10 Tyson Jost Mid
2017 8 Casey Mittelstadt Hit
9 Michael Rasmussen Mid
10 Owen Tippett Hit
2018 8 Adam Boqvist Hit
9 Vitali Kravtsov Bust
10 Evan Bouchard Mega Hit
2019 8 Philip Broberg Arrow pointing down
9 Trevor Zegras Mega Hit
10 Vasili Podkolzin Arrow pointing down
2020 8 Jack Quinn Hit
9 Marco Rossi Hit
10 Cole Perfetti Hit
2021 8 Brandt Clarke On road to hit
9 Dylan Guenther On road to hit
10 Tyler Boucher Arrow pointing down
2022 8 Marco Kasper Top Prospect
9 Matthew Savoie Top Prospect
10 Pavel Mintuykov Top Prospect
2023 8 Ryan Leonard Top Prospect
9 Nate Danielson Top Prospect
10 Dalibor Dvorsky Top Prospect

It’s too soon on recent years to know just what will pan out, but the significance in the inclusion for the recent data is to point out that these players are mostly the top prospects for their respective NHL teams, and presumably have bright futures and carry a lot of value as elite prospects. At worst, keeping a top-10 picks means adding a huge name from that draft class.

Dropping those last two years and looking at the 18 picks for the years 2016-2021, there have been over twice as many positive results (11) than negative (5). A top-10 pick carries a ton of value, with any luck (and good scouting work) this is a place where NHL teams can be counted on to make a solid selection and add a top-of-the-lineup type of skilled player that could/should help an NHL team for a decade.

The other piece of good news is that top-10 NHL picks don’t take long to matriculate to the NHL when the pick is right. Usually in draft+2 or certainly by draft+3, if the player is the difference maker type of ideal and right selection, they should be in the NHL lineup and contributing on their entry level contract and at a young age.

The Penguins’ challenging season means a lot and has been frustrating to get through. Depending on how these last 11 games go, Pittsburgh making just their second top-10 pick since 2006 should go a long way towards stocking the team with quality youngsters that could help the next era of the team. It’s probably not the position or building that Kyle Dubas expected, and certainly not the one he wanted, but this summer will see more elite draft-age talent come into the Pens’ organization for the first time again in a long, long time.

Top 50 draft picks in recent Pittsburgh Penguins franchise history

Year No. of Top 50 Picks
Year No. of Top 50 Picks
2024 3?
2023 1
2022 1
2021 0
2020 0
2019 1
2018 0
2017 0
2016 0
2015 1
2014 1
2013 1
2012 2
2011 1
2010 1
2009 1
2008 0
2007 1
2006 2
2005 1
2004 2
2003 2
2002 2
2001 1
2000 1

The Pens would be on their way to as many top-50 picks this year as they’ve had from 2016-23 combined, should current tracking of points hold up. The two second round picks (if Carolina doesn’t make the SCF, and Pittsburgh’s own second) will be towards the back of that, which makes the potential top-10 addition this June become the key. This time of year, if a team is out of the playoffs they win (for a better draft pick) by losing (on the ice).