VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Pens made it clear with their first three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft held at Vancouver's Rogers Arena what their priorities were when evaluating prospects.
Those first three picks - Samuel Poulin, first round, 21st overall; Nathan Legare, third round, 74th overall; Judd Caulfield, fifth round, 145th overall - have many similarities. All three men are power forwards. Poulin and Legare both played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and have been friends since the age of 7.
But take a peek at the scouting report on Poulin and Legare from the Red Line Report, an independent scouting service utilized by GMs, scouts, coaches, fans and media…
Poulin (6-1, 212), Sherbrooke: "Big, physical brute dominates along the walls and down below the circles in the offensive zone. Pro style winger plays a north-south game. Wins corner battles and then regularly makes power moves into the slot, shrugging off checks."
Legare (6-0, 205), Baie-Comeau: "Rugged power winger plays a very heavy game and never turns down a chance to drive to the crease. Drives through checks, excellent core strength and leverages opposing defenders off the puck all over the ice."
And in his own words, Caulfield (6-4, 205), United States National Team Development Program: "I'm a big guy so I like to use my body to my advantage. I like working pucks down low. I can play in the D zone well, and PK, too."
The reports on all three men are almost identical: big, strong, physical, love to get dirty, love to battle on the walls and drive to the net. Though, according to Pens director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin, that was a mere coincidence.
"It just turned out to be that. Sometimes when you pick at those positions the other teams dictate what players well be available," Allvin said. "They play the right way by going to the net and getting after it. That's the intriguing part."
All of them need to work on their footspeed. Though they have plenty of time to develop that quality over the next few years.
"They're a little bit heavier and have to work on their quickness, but their low game and foot speed is good," Allvin said. "They're strong, powerful kids. There's no concerns. In a couple years they'll fit the style of the Penguins."
The Pens were so impressed with Legare's play that they traded fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round selections to move into the third round to acquire him.
"When there was an opportunity to move up to get Nathan Legare, (general manager) Jim (Rutherford) was active," Allvin said. "He's a guy that we had higher on our list. We're excited about that opportunity.
"He's got a shooting mentality," Allvin continued on Legare, who finished with 45 goals and 87 points in 2018-19. "He's a super competitive kid. He plays the right way. He drives to the net and plays hard. The 45 goals speaks for itself."
Pens area scout Luc Gauthier is responsible for the Quebec region and evaluated both Poulin and Legare.
"The main quality of both guys is they have a lot of character. They're competitors," Gauthier said. "They compete every night. That's our philosophy with the Pittsburgh Penguins, draft guys with character, skill and speed. They have those qualities.
"They're similar. They play hard. They compete. And both have pretty good offensive sense."
With their final two picks of the day (seventh round, 203rd overall and 211th overall) the Pens selected Finnish forward Valtteri Puustinen of HPK and Finnish defenseman Santeri Airola of Saipa.
Puustinen won the Finnish League (SM-liiga) championship with HPK along with fellow Pens prospects Niclas Almari and Emil Larmi. Meanwhile, the Pens traded their seventh-round pick in the 2020 Draft to San Jose for the 211th pick so that they could select Airola.
"Puustinen played really well at World Junior this year," Allvin said. "He's a late-bloomer in Finland. He had a strong finish in the playoffs and won the championship in Finland.
"Airola was a guy that our European scouts were excited he was still available in the seventh round. He's a late-bloomer. Skilled defenseman, a real good skater. That was a good flip to get him in the seventh."