11:09: I tend to get a little fired up about prospects, so I’m looking forward to the Penguins making picks tomorrow, starting with No. 46. Make sure to stop by the blog tomorrow. I’ll blog up a storm about these kids.
11:06: A sneak peek at the Trib’s lead draft story as it will appear when it is actually printed on actual newsprint.
11:05: I wrote earlier this week about Connor McDavid’s marketing upside. Upper Deck thinks he has some. They signed him up and handed these out on the draft floor.
11:03: Mackey decided not to blog about Mike Johnston because he didn’t want you to miss my exciting updates on macadamia nut cookies. He’s very considerate that way.
10:51: Stay tuned for some Mackey blogging. It’s about Mike Johnston.
10:30: The New Jersey Devils have reportedly acquired Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim for a couple of picks, including a second-rounder tomorrow. Palmieri almost always had big games against John Hynes-coached Baby Pens teams when he was in Norfolk. I can see why he and Ray Shero would be enamored with Palmieri. I can’t blame them. I’ve long thought Palmieri would be a good fit in the Penguins’ top six. Good size, good skill, good shot.
10:13: I’d like to thank the Florida Panthers for hosting this great event and congratulate the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. I’m proud to select a macadamia nut cookie from the dessert tray.
9:52: This is a down year for Western Pennsylvania-born prospects, but there was a regional player selected in the first round. Winnipeg took speedy forward Kyle Connor, a Michigan native, from the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms.
9:49: See that two-hour gap down there in the timeline? Here’s what I was up to at that time:
— Sat in on the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel press conferences. Steve Mears of the NHL Network told me this a week ago, but it’s different when you see it in person. Eichel has a ton of personality. McDavid seems guarded.
— Talked to Mike Yeo about Minnesota signing Mike Reilly and about his path to the NHL, one that several coaches seem to be following these days. He went from AHL assistant to NHL assistant to AHL head coach to NHL head coach. I think Mike Sullivan is on a similar path, as is Alain Nasreddine. Here’s what Yeo said about it.
“It worked out for me. There’s no question. Everyone has their own path and different experiences. It seemed like the logical thing for me to do. It’s nice to provide some kind of blueprint for people.”
— Listened to Flyers No. 7 overall pick Ivan Provorov. He played his midget and bantam seasons in Wilkes-Barre. He said he had been to Philadelphia twice before to see Eagles games. The Eagles lost both times.
— Looked for Dan Bylsma but didn’t find him. Wanted to talk to him about what the Sabres have done here, getting Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly for an awesome 1-2 punch down the middle and a 23-year-old potential franchise goalie in Robin Lehner. Maybe tomorrow.
9:41: There have been five trades made today involving NHL players. Four of them included a first-round pick tonight and the other one included the first pick of the second round.
9:11: Highlights from Jim Rutherford’s media availability:
— He’s being patient in his quest to acquire a top-six winger.
— He’s had serious conversations with five or six teams that he considers good building blocks for future discussions.
— Teams are after the Penguins’ young defensemen. “Different teams like different ones,” he said.
— Even though most of Friday’s big deals included first-round picks tonight, he said he wasn’t hamstrung because the Penguins don’t have one. “No because I know we can make something happen if we want without one,” he said.
7:12: Gary Bettman’s opening address at the draft is always interesting. He acknowledges the boos, then tries for every cheap pop he can get. Hockey is alive and well in South Florida. Aaron Ekblad is great. I expect him to close with “Knibb High football rules.”
6:01: Little bit of prospect news. People have asked me why the Penguins haven’t yet signed Baby Pens leading scorer Conor Sheary, who was playing on an AHL deal last season, to an NHL contract. Again, with the arcane free-agent rules, a player on an AHL deal may sign an NHL contract before June 1 or after July 1, but not in between. So the earliest the Penguins could sign Sheary is July 1. Those are the rules.
5:58: Good news for Bobby Farnham fans. Bad news for me. I made a mistake in a story I wrote yesterday. Farnham is not an unrestricted free agent. He’s restricted. He has turned 26 and hasn’t played 80 NHL games, so I thought that made him a Group VI UFA. As it turns out, a player must have played three seasons on an NHL contract to be in Group VI, and Farnham hasn’t. Free-agent rules are arcane, but it’s no excuse. I messed that up. Anyway, now that it’s clear that Farnham is a restricted free agent, and he wants to stay with the Penguins, and the team wants to keep him, there’s nothing standing in the way of him re-signing.
5:50: In some ways, the Milan Lucic to LA deal helps set the market for impact wingers. Boston got goalie Martin Jones, defenseman prospect Colin Miller and the 13th pick tonight. If the Penguins were putting together a similar package, they could more or less match Jones and Miller. What they couldn’t match is the 13th pick, which just might end up being a stumbling block in discussions.
5:11: This just in from Jason Mackey. The Penguins have met with Joel Ward, one of the most accomplished members of this summer’s free-agent class, according to multiple sources. Ward has scored 24 and 19 goals with Washington the last two seasons. Perhaps most appealingly to the oft injury riddled Penguins, he’s played in all 82 games both years.
Ward, 34, is coming off a contract that paid him $12 million over four years, a cap hit of $3 million per season. Starting June 25, teams were free to begin interviewing impending unrestricted free agents.
4:23: Pierre LeBrun reports that the Leafs could just as easily wait until next week to deal Kessel. To me, that would work in favor of the Penguins if they hope to land him. Once other suitors can no longer offer a 2015 first-round pick in return, the Penguins’ offer will probably look more appealing.
4:19: Anaheim announced that Dallas Eakins will be the coach of its new AHL farm club in San Diego. I asked around about Eakins when the Penguins were looking for an AHL coach and was told he wasn’t a candidate. They wanted someone with more of a reputation as a teacher of young kids, which led them to Mike Sullivan.
4:10: According to draft chatter, at the start of the day, the goalies on the block were Ottawa’s Robin Lehner, the Rangers’ Cam Talbot, Vancouver’s Eddie Lack and Los Angeles’ Martin Jones. Lehner went to Buffalo along with David Legwand for the 21st pick in tonight’s draft.
Having seen all four in the minors, here’s how I would rank them. 1. Lehner. 2. Lack. 3. Jones. 4. Talbot. Lehner is a real aggressive, confrontational type goalie. At 23, he’s only getting better.
4:03: Here’s a slideshow of Penguins No. 1 draft picks. My, wasn’t Ryan Whitney a dapper young fella.
4:01: On the draft floor. Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way” on the PA. Only music from the commercials of NHL partner companies allowed here in Sunrise, Florida. Ironing went OK. I didn’t burn anything or anyone and my clothes look like I took in a nap in them, rather than looking like I slept overnight in them. So that’s a win.
2:35: Trib Total Media’s Jason Mackey reports the Penguins met with Paul Martin’s agent, Ben Hankinson, and “had good discussions about Paul.” I think it’s safe to say Martin is still expected to sign elsewhere, but with some potentially moving parts among the team’s NHL-ready young defensemen, it makes sense to at least keep the door open.
There’s going to be a little lull in the live blog as I iron some pants and travel to the arena. Expect the updates to continue a little after 4 p.m.
Spread the word. Leave comments. Find me on Twitter (@BombulieTrib). We can make this a place for discussion tonight if you’d like to.
2:33: Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports Mike Reilly, a highly sought-after free-agent defenseman out of the University of Minnesota, has agreed to sign with the Wild. Chicago and Pittsburgh were also finalists. To me, if the Penguins had landed Reilly, they might have been more willing to move Pouliot.
2:30: If the Penguins are going to add a scoring winger, they’ll almost certainly have to give up a good prospect or two. Here is a list of the top 10 players age 25 or younger in the organization.
1. Olli Maatta: He tops the list because he’s actually done it in the NHL. He could be a top-pair defenseman for a long time. Not getting traded.
2. Derrick Pouliot: I’m sure the Penguins don’t want to trade Pouliot, but it’s hard to imagine them making a big, big deal without him in it.
3. Kasperi Kapanen: He had a lackluster showing at World Juniors last year, to the NHL community as a whole, he’s probably not as intriguing a prospect as he is to the Penguins, who have been watching closer as he’s had success in Finland and in Wilkes-Barre.
4. Beau Bennett: Penguins fans think of him as an injury prone player who hasn’t reached his potential. Scouts outside of the organization that I’ve talked to see the potential and are still pretty high on him.
5. Scott Harrington: It might be a surprise to see him ahead of Brian Dumoulin, but scouts I’ve talked to like him a little better. There’s less uncertainty about his game. He’s steady. Plus he has a World Juniors profile, which helps his reputation with a certain portion of the hockey community.
6. Brian Dumoulin: He’s 6-4 and can move the puck, so he’s definitely an asset, but scouts I’ve talked to see his ceiling as being a bottom-pair defenseman.
7. Matt Murray: He’s a big, tall goalie who had an awesome rookie year in Wilkes-Barre. What knocks him down the list is that most organizations have their own goalie prospect that they like.
8. Tristan Jarry: He’s got the 2014 Memorial Cup on his resume, which, like Harrington’s World Juniors experience, raises his prospect profile.
9. Scott Wilson: Not a high-profile prospect by any means, but scouts like him. He has the attitude to play in the bottom six but the speed and skill to not be a plugger.
10. Oskar Sundqvist: He’s probably got more value to the Penguins, who will have Brandon Sutter for one more season at the most and need to develop a third-line center, than other teams.
Other guys I considered putting on the list are Bryan Rust and Anton Zlobin. Scouts like Rust’s game, but most teams have a prospect or two like him. Zlobin isn’t on the list because he’s had a lot of injuries and didn’t exactly light it up as a rookie in Wilkes-Barre. But he’s a 40-goal scorer in juniors who scored a winning goal in the Memorial Cup. Like Harrington and Jarry, that raises his profile.
2:10: Welcome to the 2015 NHL draft. This post will be your headquarters for news, notes and some speculation through the course of the evening.
Because the Penguins have indicated an interest in adding a scoring winger or two, every scoring winger whose name might end up in a trade discussion is going to be linked to the team. The most buzz surrounds Phil Kessel and T.J. Oshie.
We’ll also have some information and analysis of college free agent defenseman Mike Reilly signing with Minnesota (the Penguins were one of three finalists), talks between Paul Martin’s agent and the Penguins and much more. So stay tuned.
To set the scene, most of the activity right now is at the headquarters hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. Soon, the scene will shift to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, which is about a half-hour away.