The Penguins have the 21st overall pick in the draft this year. And while I’m still not convinced they’re going to actually make a pick (they just love them some trades)…we still have to look at who they could pick. Previous 21st overall Penguins pick? Colby Armstrong. So let’s look at some options…
The Penguins like the USHL. It’s where they found hidden gem Jake Guentzel. And that’s where Bobby Brink plays. The Sioux City Musketeer was widely regarded as the USHLs best player last year. His 70 points in 45 games split between 35 goals and 35 assists led the Musketeers in both categories. He also led Team USA in points at the World Junior A Challenge.
However, he’s plagued by a few “buts”. He’s small but he’s not as explosive as we’ve come to expect from most prospects his size (5’8″). He skates kind of awkwardly and looks a little weird out on the ice – something that will probably push him down the draft board – but still gets around just fine. What he does have though is the kind of hockey IQ the Penguins love. You’ll notice it in the clip below He has good hands, he has a good shot, and his playmaking is great. He’s off to the University of Denver, too, where he will likely work on that explosiveness.
If you had to pick a player based on one skill and one skill alone Nils Hoglander’s hands would be a top 5 pick. Don’t believe me? Watch this highlight reel from his SHL season in 18-19 and tell me the kid doesn’t have magic mitts
He came in quick, playing in Sweden’s second league (Allsvenskan) for a stretch at just 16 years old. He played there again at 17 before moving up to the SHL. His 14 points in the SHL last year were fifth among all players under 19.
Something that will probably push him down to this 20s spot? He’s not a typical forward for his skill set. He prefers being in motion. Literally, he just likes to move. He likes cycling on the PP as opposed to the half-wall sniper’s spot. And he’s quick, but less straight speed and more elusive.
The name Suzuki should look familiar because Ryan is the younger brother of Nick – current Canadiens prospect. But Ryan is his own player. He’s a really good skater (noticing a pattern in the players I’ve identified yet?). And he uses that skill to make space so he and his teammates can make plays. He’s also got a high hockey IQ and excels at finding his way to the center of the ice where some of the highest danger chances can be had.
Watch him find a way to that soft area between the circles over and over:
Stats wise? He’s got decent numbers putting up 75 points in 65 games with a pretty abysmal Barrie Colts team. If Barrie doesn’t improve he’s the kind of player I expect to move to another team next year. He also tallied 8 points in just 5 games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Not too shabby. His one “fault” as seen by some scouts is that he isn’t too physical. But that appears to be mostly by design. He’s elusive and slips away from oncoming checkers instead of engaging – and when you can pick between scoring or hitting just to hit? Always pick scoring.
The most “consensus” 21 overall I’ve seen is Raphael Lavoie – I feel like I’ve seen the kid at 20-22 on most draft boards. The Halifax Mooseheads winger is one of those elusive big guys with skill. As the video shows, he’s the size of Evgeni Malkin but, like Malkin, moves very well. He’s also noted as being a winger but defensively tracking pucks well, so perhaps there’s potential for the big guy to be a pivot in the future. Another great asset Lavoie has is his tenacity. Add that to his size and he’s a monster in the corners. He’s very good at keeping possession down low for his team.
Tomasino is another prospect ranked directly around the 21 spot the Penguins pick is in. He’s generally ranked between 17 and 22 with one outlier each way. A lot of people also call him one of this draft’s hidden gems. His 79 points on the OHL’s second-place Niagra IceDogs was solid, if not eye-popping. And he was top 5 among players to start and end the season with Niagra.
I may not be as fond of him as some others, I find a lot of his goals have a bit of a cookie cutter feel to them and worry about that, but he certainly wouldn’t be a bad pick. His knocks, however, include “consistency” and “physicality/getting pushed around” and I find both to be fairly weak criticisms. I’m more concerned if he’s a one trick pony how well will that translate to the NHL?
BONUS: Anttoni Honka
Honka is a bonus because he’s a feast or famine kind of player and is not a consensus anywhere really. As is common in the draft, scouts who love him really love him and rank him as high as the lower half of the top ten. Scouts, who don’t? Say he belongs in the second round. He is a right shot defender on the smaller side with offensive upside though. The kind of player the Penguins really like. He bounced around last season, as the property of JYP (the top pro team in his home town of Jyvaskyla) he played 16 games in for their top league putting up 4 points. Then he was loaned out to Jukurit, another team in the Liiga, where he had six points in 11 games. He also had a stint with the second Finnish league, Mestis, where he had seven points in 11 games during the regular season and 11 points in 17 games in the playoffs. He’s unfinished for sure, but even just starting and ending the season in the same league could do wonders for his development. There also remains an option for a player plagued by “defensive lapses” given his age… what if he became a forward?