BUFFALO, New York – After a quiet opening day, the Pens made some noise on Day 2 of the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on Saturday.
For more on the team’s selections click here
Here are the biggest takeaways from the day… GOALIE DEPTH
If you thought the Pens had goalie depth before, they now have to have the deepest pool of talent at the position following the selection of Swedish netminder Filip Gustavsson.
Gustavsson was ranked as the best goaltending prospect in the draft by many scouting outlets, including as high as the 20th-best overall pick. So the Pens were shocked that he was still available when they picked at 55 of the second round.
“I was leaning more towards taking defensemen, but we had the goalie rated the No. 1 goalie in the draft,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “We really, really like him a lot. We were surprised he was still there. So we really couldn’t pass on him.” BULKING DEFENSEMEN
Entering the draft weekend, one position the Pens wanted to bolster was their blue line depth throughout the system. Their final five picks were all blueliners. The first two of those picks – Connor Hall and Ryan Jones – are physically aggressive defensemen.
“(Hall and Jones) are really a lot alike,” Rutherford said.
“They’re both more defensive defensemen. As long as they can skate there is a place (for those types of defensemen). Both of these guys are good skaters.”
Even though the defensemen don’t seem to fit the Pens’ style of play of speed and finesse, Rutherford knows that you still need to have a balance on the backend.
“You have to have both,” he said. “It’s important that guys can skate. But you have to have guys that can play physical and defend. Both of these guys can.”
Director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton has no doubt that Hall and Jones have the footspeed to play in the Pens’ system.
“Their puck skills are sufficient to play the way we want to play,” Sexton said. “They bring a certain dimension that we currently don’t have, particularly if we aren’t able to get Ben Lovejoy re-signed.” BENNETT MOVED
The Pens opened up a little cap space and also picked up a draft pick after trading forward Beau Bennett to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the 77th selection in the third round.
“With the number of young guys that we have we felt it times to give him a change,” Rutherford said. “It gets frustrating, the injury report. I certainly recognize that he’s a good player. A change will be good for him and he’ll do well there.”
Bennett, the Pens’ first-round pick in 2010, played only 129 games over four seasons with the Pens due to various injuries. Those injuries have hindered his ability to fulfill his potential.
“He is a good player and if he can stay healthy he’ll go on to be a good player in New Jersey,” Rutherford said. “He could never stay healthy enough to gain momentum and get his confidence. Very high skill level.
“Maybe (the injuries are) behind him now. it’s hard to say. He certainly didn’t have a lot of luck with us.”
The Pens decided one week ago that Bennett’s style of play would no longer fit with their system and decided to make a change.
“Leading up to the draft, after we looked at our team, talked to the coaching staff about who fits, it became more apparent that Beau wasn’t going to fit with us moving forward,” Rutherford said. “We have guys ahead of him that can skate, puck pressure guys. He plays a little different style.”
There were a few teams that expressed interest in Bennett, but New Jersey pushed the hardest. Devils general manager Ray Shero drafted Bennett and understands his potential. THIS ‘N AT
*Rutherford on taking Bjorkqvist: “Our European scouts followed him and loved his play. I was leaning more towards defensemen, but they felt so adamant about him. He’s just a really good all-around center.”
*Rutherford said the team likely cannot sign anyone in free agency due to their cap restraints. He said the Pens have about $1 million in space.
*With the Pens so close to the cap they’ll likely be a non-player in free agency. Which means they may have to use either Derrick Pouliot or Ian Cole, both lefty defensemen, on their offhand.