Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Thoughts: How Troublesome is Their Pick Shortage?


The Pittsburgh Penguins hold one pick in the first four rounds of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft due to the amount of picks they’ve traded away.  A lot of those picks were used to scoop up rentals at or near the trade deadline in order to “win now”.  Of course, they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 2009, and those rentals continue to walk via free agency every summer leaving the Pens with nothing to show for those forfeited picks.

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Ray Shero, former GM for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was known for his willingness to mortgage the future for the present.  His goal was clearly to win Stanley Cups, and while there is a lot of valid criticism of his tenure in Pittsburgh, no one can deny the fact that he was all-in every season, despite injuries or other circumstances.

While this strategy provided Pens fans with some extremely exciting hockey over the years, how detrimental was it to the long-term success of this team?  Jim Rutherford also moved a few picks this past season in order to fulfill needs on his current roster.  How troublesome is it that Pittsburgh will pick in the second round, and then have no selections again until round five?

I want to take a look at the last five Stanley Cup Champions and how much their young forwards that were drafted and developed in-house contributed.  But, of course we have to look at the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins first.

When looking at the individuals that had a significant role in the 2009 playoffs, nine skaters were drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Also, Marc-Andre Fleury was of course a Pens draft pick, which brings the total to ten.  This season’s Pittsburgh Penguins had four skaters that were drafted by the team, one of which being Rob Scuderi who left for L.A. and has returned to Pittsburgh in the downside of his career. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Beau Bennett were the only players in the post season drafted by the Pens.  Of course, Kris Letang was injured.

Considering there’s a chance Beau Bennet walks this summer, Sidney Crosby will then be the most recent forward drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins that remains on the roster. Yikes.

Listed below are the last five Stanley Cup Champions and the amount of players drafted by that organization.

2013-14 L.A. Kings – 11
2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks – 11
2011-12 L.A. Kings – 9
2010-11 Boston Bruins – 4
2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks -9

What do those totals tell us? Aside from the Boston Bruins in 2011, all of these teams saw success from developing internally and building around their core. Why is this such an important aspect to building a championship caliber team?

Consider the amount of players on either entry level contracts or bridge deals to which they haven’t hit their maximum earnings for their career.  When you build from within and get contributions from young, inexpensive players it allows you to surround your top stars with impactful talent.  This is an area in which the Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled mightily over the last five years.

The good news for Pittsburgh Penguins fans is that they’re in a position to utilize a lot of young talent in 2015-16, and thanks to smart moves by Jim Rutherford last season, they didn’t add anymore handcuffing contracts and they can buyout Rob Scuderi with little penalty.  Below are the young crop of players that Pittsburgh could potentially roster next season.

Olli Maatta – $.894 million
Derrick Pouliot – $1.288 million
Oskar Sundqvist – $.667 million
Scott Harrington – $.575 million
Kasperi Kapanen – $.925 million
Scott Wilson – $.667 million

Six roster spots filled with youth that would total a hair over $5 million in cap space. And, this isn’t counting Brian Dumoulin as he is a restricted free agent without a finalized salary as of right now. But, I’d imagine his cap hit would be in the range of Derrick Pouliot’s on his bridge deal.

In conclusion, yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have hurt themselves over the years.  But, they’re now at a pivotal moment in which they can begin using this stockpiled youth. If they struggle you can address needs at the trade deadline. I’m not overly concerned at their lack of picks at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. But, going forward it would be wise to hold onto picks in order to re-stock that cupboard over the next two to three seasons.

When you draft effectively, you can rebuild behind the scenes without seeing the product on the ice impacted negatively. The Chicago Blackhawks are a great example of this. Let’s hope the Pittsburgh Penguins can be soon as well.

Next: Three Prospects the Pens Should Target at the Draft

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