The team’s main goal with the 2017 entry draft was to beef up defensive depth—four of the Pens’ six picks were blueliners. This was a smart move by GM Jim Rutherford. The Penguins have suffered a lot of injuries on the blue line—most notably, losing Kris Letang for the entire 2017 playoffs. The depth guys—guys like Cameron Gaunce, Chad Ruhwedel, and David Warsofsky—have done a great job of stepping up. The Pens also took four defensemen in the 2016 draft.
Also similar to last year, the Pens did not have a pick in the first round. This year, the Penguins traded their first round pick (31st overall) and center Oskar Sundqvist to the St. Louis blues in exchange for a second round pick (51st overall) and winger Ryan Reaves. Reaves is a bruiser—in 80 games played last year, he accrued 7 goals, 13 points, and 104 PIM. In the 2017 playoffs, where the Blues were eliminated by the Nashville Predators in the second round, Reaves had no points and 8 PIM in 11 games.
The fact that players like Reaves still have a job in the NHL is disappointing. The game has been moving towards speed and skill, not pugnacity—as it should be. But the Penguins need a player like Reaves to help protect players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in today’s league.
Don’t expect to see any of the 2017 picks on the NHL roster anytime soon. These guys are pure depth, and have a few years to go before working their way up to the show. But the Pens have proved time and time again that defensive depth is crucial to winning cups, and Rutherford hasn’t steered the team wrong yet.