Four of Pittsburgh’s five total selections at the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia were forwards – and that wasn’t a coincidence.
“Coming in, our priority was to solidify our depth up front if we could,” said Penguins co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton. “And we feel very, very good about the way we did that.”
Despite the changes to the Penguins’ hockey operations department that have taken place since last season ended, Sexton said new general manager Jim Rutherford gave the scouting staff full authority to make whatever selections they deemed fit. They just had to maintain an emphasis on taking forwards wherever possible, if possible.
“Our draft list was quite established and Jim said ‘Look, we’ll leave it to you guys, we don’t want to make a lot of changes,’” Sexton explained. “Where we could, we wanted to make sure we took a forward unless there was a significant gap in talent level between a forward and another skater. So we did that. But we accomplished what we set out to do, so everybody is obviously delighted.”
The Penguins were especially thrilled with their first choice of the draft, where they selected skilled Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen in the opening round (22nd overall) on Friday night.
“We were thrilled when he finally got there,” Sexton laughed. “We were a little anxious for him to get there. We were delighted that he got to us.”
Sexton believes that Kapanen could be ready to play in the NHL as early as next year. And while the other guys may be a bit further off, Sexton said, “They certainly fit the mold of what we’re trying to do with our depth up front.”
Sexton said adding an element of toughness and physicality was “absolutely” something the Penguins were looking to add with these kids, particularly the three forwards taken on Day 2 of the draft in Sam Lafferty, Anthony Angello and Jaden Lindo – as they’ve all got size and play hard and heavy on pucks.
“When you look at the way the last teams that have won the Cup (are built), LA is big along the wall, they’re big down the middle,” Sexton said. “Kids like Angello and Lindo and Lafferty have got good size, those are guys that are going to be able to play in the NHL game the way it’s currently being played.”
Here’s a quick look at each selection, coupled with a few words from the prospects we spoke with and a scouting report from Sexton.
: Kasperi Kapanen Selection
: First Round (22nd Overall)Position
: 180Amateur Team
: KalPa (Finnish Elite League)Notes
: Kapanen, 17, was the No. 1-rated European skater by NHL Central Registry after finishing with seven goals, seven assists and 14 points in 47 games for KalPa in Finland’s top professional league. Kapanen is the son of longtime NHL player Sami Kapanen, who had 458 career points in 831 NHL regular-season games. The two Kapanens were teammates this year with Kalpa. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford actually drafted Kasperi’s dad, Sami, in the fourth round (87th overall) in the 1995 NHL Draft when he was the GM of the Hartford Whalers. Kapanen was ranked as the 10th-overall prospect by The Hockey News; 13th-overall by International Scouting Services; and 18th-overall by McKeen's Hockey.Kapanen on his strengths and weaknesses: "
I think skating is the biggest strength for me, and just playing with the puck. Passing, shooting, goal scoring, I think those are the ones that stick out for me. I think defensively, I have to be better if I want to play in the National Hockey League someday. It’s a league for men; it’s the best league in the world. So I’ve got to prepare myself and we’ll see what happens."Sexton’s Take
: "Our first pick, Kasperi Kapanen, I think is maybe a year away from playing in Pittsburgh. I think he’ll give our team a good shot in a year. He needs another year to continue to get stronger and round out his game, but I think a year from now he’ll have a chance. He’s a terrific young player who’s got size, speed, skill and plays the game the right way. So we’re obviously excited about him."
: Fourth Round (113th overall)Position
: 187Amateur Team
: Deerfield Academy (HS)Notes
: Lafferty is a local product, as he grew up in Hollidaysburg, PA - about an hour and 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. He played youth hockey for the Altoona Trackers of the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL) and grew up rooting for the Penguins. "It’s a dream come true," Lafferty said of being drafted by Pittsburgh. "I’ve been a Penguins fan my whole life and watched them growing up. It’s just – I can’t even describe it. It’s an amazing feeling. They called me and told me the news and I was pretty ecstatic. I was just at home watching with my family and we all went pretty crazy." Lafferty played high school prep hockey the past three seasons with Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. The 6-foot, 175-pound Lafferty played in 25 games this past season with Deerfield Academy, notching 21 goals, 34 assists and 55 points. He will spend the 2014-15 season with Tri-City in the United State Hockey League (USHL) before heading to Brown University in 2015-16.Lafferty on the Penguin he tries to emulate:
"Growing up in Pittsburgh, I think everybody is a huge Sidney Crosby fan. He’s definitely someone I really look up to and admire. But I’d say someone I try and model my game after on the team now is a guy like Brandon Sutter. Just kind of a good, complete, two-way player who's responsible but also very skilled. He’s someone that I look up to as well."Sexton’s Take
: "Sam Lafferty brings speed and skill and tenacity on pucks. He’s going to college, so he’s a few years away."
: Anthony AngelloSelection
: Fifth Round (145th overall)Position
: 190Amateur Team
: Omaha (USHL)Notes
: Angello, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound forward, played for Omaha in the USHL in 2013-14, scoring 11 goals, 10 assists and 21 points in 58 games. The 18-year-old native of Albany, New York was the No. 114-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He has committed to playing college hockey at Cornell University.Angello on the kind of player he is:
"I’m a big power forward that plays the physical role. Wins his 1-on-1 battles, grinds at the netfront, is able to work in the corners. I finish all my hits. I don’t like to play selfish, but whenever I get the opportunity to score, I like to shoot and get the puck in the net. I’d definitely say my big role is a physical-presence type of guy, where the defense are skating down and they look over their shoulder and say 'oh no, there comes Angello, he’s going to put me through the wall.' (I try to) make sure my size doesn’t go to waste, because if you’re a 6-4 forward and you’re playing soft and don’t like to be hit, it’s not good. I take pride in using my body and being able to win 1-on-1 battles and get the puck from the corner to the D or win battles in front of the net to score. It’s a huge advantage."Sexton’s Take
: "Anthony Angello has really good size, good skill and is hard and heavy on pucks."
: Jaden LindoSelection
: Sixth Round (173rd overall)Position
: 201Amateur Team
: Owen Sound (OHL)Notes
: Lindo spent last season with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The 6-foot-1, 202-pound forward played in 40 games this past year, totaling nine goals, nine assists and 18 points. A native of Brampton, Ontario, Lindo was ranked as the 116th-overall skater by International Scouting Services and 154th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting – although that service had him ranked 96th at midseason before he suffered a knee injury. In two years with the Attack, Lindo has 14 goals, 26 assists and 40 points in 103 games.Lindo on who he's modeled his game after:
"I like Wayne Simmonds and Joel Ward. I think my style of game is pretty similar to theirs. I try to model my game to theirs. They’re both strong, physical players. I’m a big, strong winger. I like to use my size and strength to my advantage. I’m physical. I like to separate men off the puck and create room for my teammates."Sexton’s Take
: "Jaden Lindo is big, good along the wall, heavy on pucks, strong, good on the forecheck. Played for Owen Sound in the Canadian Hockey League. They play a very similar NHL style. He’s very good along the wall, very good on pucks, great low game. He’ll chip in with some offense, very reliable defensively."
: Seventh Round (203rd overall)Position
: 180Amateur Team
: Union CollegeNotes
: A 6-foot, 183-pound blueliner, Taylor helped Union College win the 2014 NCAA national championship, registering 16 points (3G-13A) and a plus-20 in 41 games. Taylor was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team. An 18-year-old native of Clifton, New York, Taylor played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in ’12-13, notching 27 points (5G-22A) in 57 regular-season games and five helpers in 11 postseason contests.Sexton’s Take
: "Our last pick, Jeff Taylor, is smallish but a very mobile, puck-moving defenseman. So the fact that we could get him in the seventh round, we’re delighted."