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June 29, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Three by the wayside

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The deadline just passed for teams to make qualifying offers to retain the rights of their restricted free agents. The Penguins had nine to start the day, but that number dropped to eight when Ian Cole signed a three-year deal.

Wingers Beau Bennett, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher and defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Reid McNeill got qualifying offers. Goalie Eric Hartzell, winger Adam Payerl and defenseman Nick D’Agostino did not, so they become unrestricted.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong with those three.

Eric Hartzell got stuck behind Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry on the Penguins depth chart. (theahl.com)

ERIC HARTZELL

Vitals: 6-4, 205, 26 years old

Hartzell came in as a sought-after college free agent after leading Quinnipiac to the 2013 NCAA finals. He signed a regular NHL deal at the end of that season, rather than an amateur tryout like most college kids do, so he could burn off a year of entry level contract and hopefully get to a payday quicker. He practiced with the NHL team during its run to the conference finals.

When he came into Wilkes-Barre as a rookie the next fall, he looked pretty decent. Big kid. Very athletic. He was AHL goalie of the month in January. The wheels fell off from there. He struggled badly down the stretch and spent almost all of last season with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. What happened? His athleticism turned into twitchiness. His quirkiness — he has an elaborate ritual of warming up for games with tennis balls — turned into questions about his mental game.

If he works that stuff out, he still has some impressive tools. But with Matt Murray looking like a blue-chip prospect and Tristan Jarry about to turn pro, Hartzell will have to work on it in some other jersey.

Adam Payerl can protect the puck down low, but he could use a little more sandpaper in his game. (wbspenguins.com)

Adam Payerl can protect the puck down low, but he could use a little more sandpaper in his game. (wbspenguins.com)

ADAM PAYERL

Vitals: 6-3, 218, 24 years old

When he came out of juniors as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Payerl looked like he might be an old-time power forward. Not this new breed of power forward who is big and goes to the net hard. One who can score and intimidate. He had 22 goals and 106 PIMs in his last season with Belleville.

He wasn’t a bad player in Wilkes-Barre. He would hit here and there, score a few goals, fight when the situation called for it. But he never really developed the snarl he needed to get to the NHL.

His best chance was at the start of last season. In training camp, I identified seven forwards fighting for one spot on the opening-night roster: Dan Carcillo, Zach Sill, Andrew Ebbett, Nick Drazenovic, Kasperi Kapanen, Payerl and Jayson Megna. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

“I have a hard time picking a favorite, to be honest with you, especially not knowing what type of player the new Pittsburgh regime prefers. If you forced me to pick one, I’d say Payerl, largely because he’s a big kid and they could use some size in the bottom six.”

They picked Sill, and Payerl’s season went into a tailspin. He played poorly, then got hurt. He was out of the lineup by playoffs. And now he’s on the open market.

Nick D'Agostino's father was a pro soccer player and his mom is from Malta. (citizensvoice.com)

Nick D’Agostino’s father was a pro soccer player and his mom is from Malta. (citizensvoice.com)

NICK D’AGOSTINO

Vitals: 6-2, 181, 25 years old

D’Agostino was a diamond-in-the-rough type prospect. He was a seventh-round pick in 2008, then went on to become one of the better offensive defensemen in the ECAC at Cornell. He pushed the pace but didn’t take too many risks offensively. He needed some polishing defensively, but what young defenseman doesn’t?

In two years in Wilkes-Barre, D’Agostino was OK. Played at the bottom of the depth chart. Filled in well when injuries hit. Good first pass. Not great in physical battles down low, but not bad. He never really distinguished himself, though, so he ended up not getting an offer today.

Bye for now,

jb

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June 27, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Three regional draft notes

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– Winger Luke Stevens, son of former Penguins winger Kevin Stevens, went in the fifth round, 126th overall, to the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s got his dad’s size, checking in at 6-4, 192. He’s headed to Yale in the fall.

—  Goalie Ryan Bednard went in the seventh round, 206th overall, to the Florida Panthers, making him the first player from the Johnstown Tomahawks junior team to ever be drafted. He’s a 6-4, 185-pound Michigan native who had 16 wins a .913 save percentage last season. He’s headed to the USHL’s  Youngtown Phantoms next season and is expected to play at Bowling Green starting in 2017.

“I was definitely raw coming in, and I just needed to play. That’s always the most important thing for goalies, and playing in Johnstown was great for me because I got the right kind of exposure and support. They let me go through the process and gave me the playing time I needed to get better,” he said in a press release sent out by the team.

Casey Fitzgerald, son of Penguins assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald, wasn’t drafted. A 5-11, 185-pound defenseman, Fitzgerald is headed to Boston College. If all goes well there, he could easily take the college free-agent route to the pros.

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June 27, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Pens Draft Picks 2015

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If you’re looking for the blow-by-blow from the two days of the draft, just scroll down a bit. Here’s more of a focused wrap-up.

Second-round pick Daniel Sprong (Charlottetownislanders.com)

Second-round pick Daniel Sprong
(Charlottetownislanders.com)

DANIEL SPRONG

Picked: Second round, 46th overall

Height: 6-0

Weight: 183

Position: RW

Last year: 39 goals, 88 points in 68 games with Charlottetown (QMJHL)

Scouting report: He’s known as a brilliant stick-handler and creative offensive player with a top-notch shot. There’s some question about his ability to play within a team structure.

Notes

— Sprong is the first Dutch player drafted. If he makes the NHL, he’ll be the second Dutch player to do so, joining defenseman Ed Kea, who played for Atlanta and St. Louis in the 1970s and 80s.

— Sprong got into hockey because his father, Hannie Sprong, played for and coached a team in the Dutch league. He was at the draft today. “He was very happy. Very emotional. I think he was almost in tears,” Sprong said.

— Sprong played a year of youth hockey with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on a team with Flyers’ seventh overall pick Ivan Provorov and Penguins’ seventh-round pick Nikita Pavlychev. I lived in Wilkes-Barre at that time. I should have gone to those games.

— Since he’s Dutch, I asked Sprong who his favorite football team is, thinking he’d say Ajax or PSV or something. He said the New England Patriots. I guess it makes sense. He has been in North America since he was 7.

–When I clarified and said I meant soccer, he surprised me and said Manchester United. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Manchester United is led by manager Louis van Gaal and top scorer Robin van Persie, both Dutch.

 

Fifth-round pick Dominik Simon (Canadian Press)

Fifth-round pick Dominik Simon
(Canadian Press)

DOMINIK SIMON

Dominik Simon

Picked: Fifth round, 137th overall

Height: 5-11

Weight: 176

Position: LW/C

Last year: 18 goals, 30 points in 52 games with Plzen (Czech Republic)

Scouting report: Not a dynamic finisher or great skater, but he’s a hard worker with great puck skills and a good two-way game.

Notes

— Simon scored 18 goals for Plzen in the Czech Republic last season, which is an impressive total for a player his age.

— He played in the World Championships in May, sometimes sharing a line with Jaromir Jagr. He had six points in 10 games, which was more than NHL players Tomas Hertl or Martin Erat, to name two.

— Simon is 20, so he could play in the AHL next season. Not saying he will. Just that he could.

 

Sixth-round pick Frederik Tiffels (WMUBroncos.com)

Sixth-round pick Frederik Tiffels
(WMUBroncos.com)

FREDERIK TIFFELS

Picked: Sixth round, 167th overall

Height: 6-0

Weight: 192

Position: LW

Last year: 11 goals, 21 points in 32 games with Western Michigan

Scouting report: Not a great finisher, but good size, speed and defensive awareness.

Notes

— Made a name for himself with very good performances in the last two World Junior Championships for Germany.

— Only 10 NCAA freshmen (Jack Eichel was one of them) had more goals than the 11 Tiffels scored last year.

— Tiffels is also 20. Co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said that wasn’t by design. The Penguins weren’t trying to pick more mature prospects. It just worked out that way.

 

Seventh-round pick Nikita Pavlychev (jrknightshockey.com)

Seventh-round pick Nikita Pavlychev
(jrknightshockey.com)

NIKITA PAVLYCHEV

Picked: Seventh round, 177th overall

Height: 6-7

Weight: 200

Position: C

Last year: 6 goals, 16 points in 42 games with Des Moines (USHL)

Scouting report: Huge center with good hockey sense and good physicality. Not a good skater.

Notes

— Pavlychev will got back to Des Moines of the USHL for one more year then play at Penn State in 2016. Why he picked PSU: “Their new facilities are just unreal. They’re part of the Big Ten, which is one of the best (conferences) in college hockey,” he said.

— Pavlychev said his favorite player has always been Evgeni Malkin, and no, he’s not just saying that because the Penguins picked him. “I know. It all sounds strange that I got drafted by Pittsburgh, but I always tried to model my game after him,” he said.

— Pavlychev said he was always one of the taller kids in his age group, but recently, he had a growth spurt from 6-3 to 6-7.

— He was in the stands for the draft, which made for some anxious moments as the seventh round rolled on. “It was real hard. I was losing hope. I was thinking about what to do to get in next year, but it turned out to be good,” he said.

— Like Sprong, Pavlychev played some junior hockey in Wilkes-Barre. “Pittsburgh has always been my favorite team. I’ve always followed the Little Pens. I’m pretty happy,” he said.

Bye for now,

jb

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June 27, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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2015 NHL Draft Day 2 Live Blog

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3:05: After the Penguins convened an hour-long meeting on the draft floor at the conclusion of the draft, the live portion of the live blog is now concluded. But make sure to check back in a few hours for a more comprehensive look at the four picks the Penguins made and some insights into the trade discussions that ultimately proved fruitless.

1:30: Pens use their last pick, 197th overall, on Nikita Pavlychev, a tall center. Another Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights kid. A Penn State commit. Very tall. Every bit the 6-6 he’s listed at. Towered over Jason Botterill and Bill Guerin at the draft table.

1:20: There’s a Frederik Tiffels goal on YouTube. Not sure what it shows about him as a player, but here it is.

1:07: Like Simon, Tiffels is 20. He doesn’t have the pro experience Simon does, but it can’t be a coincidence that the Penguins took two 20-year-olds in this draft. It looks like they’re trying to get kids who will be ready sooner than the 18-year-olds.

1:03: Pens’ sixth-round pick, 167th overall, is Frederik Tiffels. He’s a German winger who scored 11 goals as a freshman at Western Michigan last season. He’s played for the German national team at World Juniors the last three years and did a fair bit of scoring in that tournament.

12:42: Simon scored 18 goals for Plzen in the Czech league last season playing against older competition. That’s a mark in his favor. He tied for third on his team in scoring with former Penguins winger Nick Johnson.

12:36: The Penguins’ fifth-round pick, 137th overall, is another skilled forward, Dominik Simon of the Czech Republic. He’s 20, so he’s closer to North American hockey than most draft picks. He scored the decisive shootout goal in an upset of Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championships. It’s the Nilsson/Forsberg move. Check it out.

12:02: For whatever this is worth, Jim Rutherford is working the room a lot more today than last night. Follow @Mackey_Trib on Twitter for the play-by-play.

11:54: Back from Daniel Sprong interview. Working on a story about him. I’ll post about him further in a little while.

10:50: Would you like to watch Daniel Sprong score five goals? Of course you would. Click here.

10:46: The Penguins take Daniel Sprong, the skilled winger I mentioned earlier. He is in attendance. Check the 10:07 post for a couple bio notes on the kid. Much, much more later.

10:41: Anaheim traded away Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelley since the trade deadline. I thought those guys were part of their future. Not anymore.

10:38: That was a fun trade. Anaheim sends No. 41 and Emerson Etem to the Rangers for Carl Hagelin and picks. Etem is a guy I’ve always thought would be a good fit for the Penguins.

10:22: The more I look at the two draft prospects who caught my eye, it occurs to me that I’m attracted by small, shiny objects. I’m not sure either of them are prudent second-round choices. They’re just the flashiest choices.

10:18: It is allowed. Live and learn.

10:17: I think New Jersey just called timeout. Don’t think that’s allowed.

10:07: The Penguins’ first pick of this draft is 46th overall, in the middle of the second round. In the limited amount of draft research that I’ve done, there are two potential picks that I find particularly intriguing.

The first is Swedish defenseman Oliver Kylington. He’s an offensive defenseman known for his high-end skating. Two years ago, when he was 16, he played for his Swedish club against a team of AHL all-stars and was one of the best players on the ice. He had a bad year last year, bouncing around to three different teams. He’s considered weak in D-zone coverage, but that can be taught.

The other is winger Daniel Sprong. He is from the Netherlands but moved to Canada as a youngster to pursue his hockey career. He also played youth hockey in Wilkes-Barre for a little while. He’s a creative, skilled forward with high-end stickhandling skills. There are questions about how well he plays within a team concept.

10:04: Welcome to the second day of the NHL draft. There are a lot of eyes on GM Jim Rutherford today. He said last night that he’s trying to be patient in his attempts to acquire a top-six winger. He’s also known, throughout his career, to be an active trader, especially at draft time. Will he continue to exercise patience today or will he exercise his trade trigger finger instead? Stay tuned.

 

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June 26, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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NHL Draft Live Blog 2015

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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.

PensDraft062715

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.

IMG_1659

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.”

sheary

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.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs

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.

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June 25, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Deepest draft since 2003? Very possibly.

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Hope David Perron was worth it.

Ask an NHL Draft expert, a scout or both and that’s your likely takeaway.

That the Penguins mortgaging their top choice this year for Perron would always be considered a bold move but even more so when you consider the quality of Friday’s first round.

“There’s a lot of high-end talent in this draft,” said Dennis MacInnis, who’s the director of scouting for the International Scouting Service or ISS. “It’s really not a good year to not have a first-round pick.”

The Penguins’ first selection is No. 46 or midway through the second round. Late Saturday morning. The Oilers will take the Penguins turn at No. 16.

Connor McDavid will headline the draft. Jack Eichel will be second. Centers are a thing. In ranking the top 200 skaters, ISS has centers in eight of the first 13 spots, including four of the first six.
“It’s that type of draft,” MacInnis said. “It’s loaded with centers.”

The wealth of talent reminds many of 2003, when forwards Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and several others went in the first round.

“It’s probably the deepest draft in terms of talent well into the second round as any in the last 10 or 12 years,” said Kyle Woodlief, who’s the chief scout and owner of Red Line Report. “If you go back to 2003, that was a very deep draft.

“Even a couple years ago, in 2013, that was a deep draft. I don’t think any of them have been a combination of high-end, marquee talent at the top and quality right on through the first 50 picks or so.”

The number of centers on the board is crazy. Dylan Strome. Mitchell Marner. Matthew Barzel. Pavel Zacha.

MacInnis told a story of how they do technology-based testing on prospects’ skating through 13 drills. McDavid scored 730. Zacha was at 740.

“He’s kind of a draft wild card,” MacInnis said. “Nobody knows where the kid’s going to go. He had such an up and down year. Been hurt or suspended three or four different times.”

Not within the Penguins’ range but still worth monitoring on Friday night.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 25, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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If the Penguins draft a defenseman …

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Hope you’re able to check out Jonathan Bombulie’s story today on what happened to the Penguins’ defensive depth.

With the NHL Draft only a day away – Bombulie, Rob Rossi and I fly to Florida this afternoon – I thought I’d highlight a few defensive prospects I’ve been hearing about, much like I did on Tuesday.

The top 10 defensemen are REALLY good. After that, if it gets to that, you might see the Penguins drift more toward a forward.

Even though general manager Jim Rutherford acknowledged to Jonathan needing to improve the Penguins’ depth on the back end, the top 50 picks are slanted toward the forwards this year.

Anyway, here’s a few to watch out for:

Player: Gabriel Carlsson
International Scouting Services ranking: 30
Shot: L
Height/weight: 6-4, 183
Team/league: Linkoping/Swedish Junior
The skinny: He’s the second-ranked skater according to NHL Central Scouting. Wouldn’t get too worked up. It’s unlikely he’s still available when the Penguins pick at No. 46.

Player: Oliver Kylington
ISS ranking: 32
Shot: L
Height/weight: 6-0, 180
Team/league: Farjestad/Swedish Junior
What they’re saying: From Dennis MacInnis, Director of Scouting, International Scouting Services:
“There’s a lot of talk that he’s a first-rounder. At the start of the year, he was a top 10 pick for us. He has million-dollar legs. Beautiful skater, offensive defensemen who I would suspect might be on the Penguins’ radar if he fell that late.
“He’s bounced around between two or three teams this year, and he totally has lost his confidence. He reminds me a little bit of Anthony DeAngelo, who played in Sarnia. First-rounder last year, power-play specialist.
“There are a lot of teams that are interested that could take him in the first, but we could see him slipping easily to the second round.”

Player: Vladislav Gavrikov
ISS ranking: 49
Shot: L
Height/weight: 6-2 1/2, 205
Team/league: Yaroslavl Loko/Russian Junior
What they’re saying: From MacInnis:
“He’s a big, stud defenseman. No fun to play against. He’s been playing in the Russian league for the past year and a half or so. If you get him in the second round, he could maybe even step in and play.”

Others: MacInnis likes Vince Dunn, a left-shot defenseman who’s 6-0, 187. Comes from Niagara of the OHL. Another offensive defensemen who can skate.

The Penguins could also take Matthew Spencer from Peterborough of the OHL, although he’s ranked No. 70 by ISS, No. 68 by Central Scouting – I.e. maybe a bit of a reach for the Penguins at No. 46.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 25, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Mackey: NHL Awards voting

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In case you’re curious, here’s how I voted for the categories in Wednesday’s NHL Awards that the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association handles.

HART TROPHY
1. LW Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals
2. G Carey Price, Canadiens
3. G Devan Dubnyk, Wild
4. C Sidney Crosby, Penguins
5. C John Tavares, Islanders

NORRIS TROPHY
1. Shea Weber, Predators
2. Erik Karlsson, Senators
3. Kris Letang, Penguins
4. P.K. Subban, Canadiens
5. Mark Giordano, Flames

CALDER TROPHY
1. D Aaron Ekblad, Panthers
2. RW Mark Stone, Senators
3. C Filip Forsberg, Predators
4. LW Johnny Gaudreau, Flames
5. LW Mike Hoffman, Senators

LADY BYNG TROPHY
1. C Jiri Hudler, Flames
2. C Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
3. RW Martin St. Louis, Lightning
4. LW Daniel Sedin, Canucks
5. C Logan Couture, Sharks

SELKE TROPHY
1. C Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
2. C Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings
3. C Sidney Crosby, Penguins
4. C Anze Kopitar, Kings
5. C Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks

NHL ALL-STAR TEAM

CENTER — Sidney Crosby, Penguins; John Tavares, Islanders; Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
RIGHT WING — Jakub Voracek, Flyers; Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues; Patrick Kane, Blackhawks
LEFT WING — Alex Ovechkin, Capitals; Jamie Benn, Stars; Rick Nash, Rangers
DEFENSE — Shea Weber, Predators; Erik Karlsson, Senators; Kris Letang, Penguins; P.K. Subban, Canadiens; Mark Giordano, Flames; Roman Josi, Predators
GOALTENDER — Carey Price, Canadiens; Devan Dubnyk, Wild; Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins

NHL ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

FORWARD — Mark Stone, Senators, Filip Forsberg, Predators; Johnny Gaudreau, Flames
DEFENSE — Aaron Ekblad, Panthers; John Klingberg, Stars
GOAL — Michael Hutchinson, Jets

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June 24, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Podcast: Mackey on TribLive Radio

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Earlier today I joined Ken Laird and Guy Junker on TribLive Radio to talk about the NHL’s Silly Season, some new rule changes and a Russian winger the Penguins intend to sign on July 1.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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June 24, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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What 3-on-3 overtime looks like

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With the news that the NHL is moving toward 3-on-3 overtime next season, pending Board of Governors approval, it’s a good time to see what 3-on-3 overtime actually looks like. Take a peek at this clip from a game between the Syracuse Crunch and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from last March.

First thing you’ll notice is that Derrick Pouliot goes end to end, more or less, to get a scoring chance that Syracuse goalie Kristers Gudlevskis makes a great save on.

As you can see, it’s a format that favors offensive defensemen who can skate and create. Kris Letang, for instance, should really thrive. Give a guy like Letang (or Pouliot in this clip) lots of open ice while being defended one-on-one by a forward, and scoring chances will almost always develop.

Later in the clip, Syracuse scores the game-winning goal. The play begins when Jayson Megna falls down briefly behind the net. Conor Sheary goes for a poke-check that doesn’t work. One mistake will usually lead to an odd-man rush in a 3-on-3 situation. Two mistakes and you can guarantee someone is going to have a great opportunity to score.

So is 3-on-3 overtime a good idea? Is it less gimmicky than a shootout? That’s a matter of personal preference. But one thing is for sure. Adopting 3-on-3 overtime will greatly diminish the number of games that go to the shootout.

AHL VP of communications Jason Chaimovitch tweeted the following stat about last season in the league: “One goal was scored for every 8:33 of play at 4-on-4. One goal was scored for every 3:41 of play at 3-on-3.”

Do the math. When teams go 3-on-3 for five minutes, someone is going to score.

Bye for now,

jb

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