Winning a second-straight Stanley Cup has the Penguins sitting in the preferred draft position of all 31 NHL teams heading into the 2017 NHL Draft on Friday night in Chicago. Pittsburgh will make its first-round selection with the 31st and final pick of the opening round.
Fans can watch the 2017 NHL Draft live on Friday beginning at 7:00 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. Rounds 2-7 will air Saturday morning on the NHL Network starting at 10:00 AM ET.
This year, the Penguins own six draft choices, including a first-round pick for the first time since 2014 when the Pens chose Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen with the 22nd-overall pick.
After the results of the past two seasons, fans aren't going to mind the lack of first-round picks the previous two drafts. The Pens' 2016 first-round pick, plus Kapanen, were the major pieces of the package Pittsburgh sent to Toronto to acquire Phil Kessel. Over the last two postseason runs, no NHL player has scored more playoff goals than Kessel's 18.
Pittsburgh originally traded its 2015 first-rounder to the Edmonton Oilers for David Perron, whose early goal-scoring tear after his acquisition was a major reason the Penguins qualified for the 2015 playoffs. Midway through the 2015-16 campaign, Perron was flipped to Anaheim for Carl Hagelin, whose speed game helped transform the Penguins, paving the way to back-to-back Cups. Hagelin's empty-net goal in Game 6 against Nashville sealed this year's Cup-clinching victory.
Pittsburgh also owns single picks in the third (93rd overall), sixth (186th overall) and seventh (217th overall) rounds. The Penguins have two choices in the fifth round, with the first of those (152nd overall) a pick they acquired from Ottawa for goalie Mike Condon, and their own selection three picks later (155th overall).
The Penguins have already received great value for their second-round pick (62nd overall). Back in February, general manager Jim Rutherford shipped that pick, along with minor-league forward Danny Kristo, to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Ron Hainsey. Four months later, that move paid off in the ultimate fashion when Hainsey helped Pittsburgh win a second-straight Stanley Cup, with the veteran blueliner ranking second on the club in the postseason in time on ice.
Pittsburgh's fourth-round pick (124th overall) was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the NHL Trading Deadline along with Eric Fehr and Steve Olesky in exchange for 24-year-old defenseman Frank Corrado. That trade was also important to Pittsburgh's title chase because it gave Rutherford the salary cap room to acquire defenseman Mark Streit in a separate trade. At the time of Streit's acquisition, the Pens were down regular blueliners Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta.
Proving how crucial the draft is to a team's success in today's NHL, 11 of the 26 major contributors (25 players to skate in the playoffs plus Kris Letang) to the Penguins' 2017 Stanley Cup championship were drafted by the Penguins. Below is a breakdown of which round those 11 players were selected:
|First Round: ||Third Round: ||Fourth Round: ||Sixth Round: ||Seventh Round: |
|Olli Maatta (2012) ||Jake Guentzel (2013) ||Tom Kuhnhackl (2010) ||Josh Archibald (2011) ||Scott Wilson (2011) |
|Sidney Crosby (2005) ||Matt Murray (2012) || || || |
|Evgeni Malkin (2004) ||Bryan Rust (2010) || || || |
|Marc-Andre Fleury (2003) ||Kris Letang (2005) || || || |
Note: Conor Sheary and Carter Rowney both joined the Penguins organization as undrafted free agents.
Twenty-two of the 26 Penguins' major Cup contributors entered the NHL as draft choices. Here are the rounds in which the players not originally chosen by Pittsburgh entered the league:
|First Round: ||Second Round: ||Sixth Round: ||Seventh Round: ||Ninth Round: |
|Ian Cole (St. Louis, 2007) ||Brian Dumoulin (Carolina, 2009) ||Nick Bonino (San Jose, 2007) ||Patric Hornqvist (Nashville, 2005) ||Mark Streit (Montreal, 2004) |
|Phil Kessel (Boston, 2006) ||Justin Schultz (Anaheim, 2008) ||Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers, 2007) || || |
|Ron Hainsey (Montreal, 2000) ||Trevor Daley (Dallas, 2002) || || || |
| ||Matt Cullen (Anaheim, 1996) || || || |
Note: Chris Kunitz (Anaheim) and Chad Ruhwedel (Buffalo) both entered the NHL as undrafted free agents.
Below is a complete listing of Pittsburgh's 2017 draft picks:
|Round ||Overall |
|1 ||31 |
|3 ||93 |
|5 ||152 (from OTT) |
|5 ||155 |
|6 ||186 |
|7 ||217 |