I did the Devils, and I have friends who are Penguins fans, so this one is for them. I may do all 31 teams, I may stop at an obligatory point. Lets see where it goes.
21st Overall: Samuel Poulin (RW/LW, Sherebrook Phoenix: QMJHL)
The first pick in the draft for the Penguins is the 6’1, 207 pound power forward from Blainville, Quebec. Poulin followed a solid Draft-Minus-1 season up with an excellent draft year for the Phoenix. He had 76 points in 67 games and 14 points in 10 playoff games. He shot up the rankings as the year went on and was a fast riser. I know a few folks had him as low as the third round to start the season. When kids climb up the rankings the way Poulin did, it’s usually a good sign that they are doing things the right way. Poulin exemplifies this. He’s a hard worker who never takes a shift off. The only knock on his game might be his speed, but everything else is at a high level. His compete level, Hockey IQ and skating are all excellent quality. His ceiling might not be the highest, but his floor is 3rd liner at worst.
74th Overall: Nathan Legare (RW, Baie-Comeau Drakkar: QMJHL)
The second pick of the draft for the Penguins is a 6’0, 205 pound power forward from Montreal Quebec. You might be noticing a trend here. You’re not crazy. I would argue that the QMJHL is a more rugged league than it’s CHL counterparts (WHL and OHL). Legare is another hard working power type player from the Q. Legare though is gifted with an excellent shot. I might rank it in the top 10 shots in the draft. It’s that good. He will fire the puck from anywhere in the offensive zone and he’s excellent at actually getting the shots on net. He also plays the power forward role with a lot of nastiness. His speed isn’t elite level, but it’s good enough to get the job done and his playmaking ability has to be respected. Legare has also shown a willingness to play the tougher aspects of the game, laying big hits and dropping the gloves when he’s called to. He’s basically a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick waiting to happen every time he plays. His shot will be the thing that really determines what his ceiling is. He might actually have a higher ceiling than Samuel Poulin, but he also has a lower floor. If Legare’s shot can continue to be effective as the level of competition increases around him, it would not be unreasonable to expect him to be a 2nd line power forward in the NHL.
145th Overall: Judd Caulfield (RW/C, USNTDP)
The third pick of the draft for the Penguins is a 6’3, 207 pound power forward from the US National Team Development program. If it seems like I’m getting repetitive, it’s intentional, I assure you. I loved Judd Caulfield for the US National Team. He’s a beast. He’s just a big, angry, wrecking ball of a player. He’s got excellent reach and impressively good hands for a brute. Best NHL comparable is probably Pat Maroon. The kid doesn’t care about his own safety and will pay any price if it means helping his team. I project him to be a middle 6 power forward because of the size and “jam” that he brings to the table. You just smile when you see him get on the ice, because you know he’s about to ruin somebody’s day. Pittsburgh fans will love this kid.
203rd Overall: Valtteri Puustinen (RW/LW, HPK: Liiga)
Smaller overaged winger from HPK of the Finish professional league (Liiga). He was part of the gold medal Finland squad at the World Junior Championship and part of the HPK team that took the Liiga title this year. The guy is a winner. He hasn’t really lit up score boards, but occasionally he produces highlight reel moments that make you ask, “How the hell did he do that?” Those players can be game changers and that seems to be what Pittsburgh scouts saw in this kid and why they took a flyer on him in the 7th round. It will be interesting to track his development further and projecting where he could one day be in the NHL is just not possible at this point in time.
211th Overall: Santeri Airola (D, SaiPa U20: Jr. A SM-Liiga)
This one is off the board. In that I mean that this kid was ranked 130th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting and that’s pretty much all I can dig up on him at this time. He banged away some points in Finnish Juniors though. The 5’11, 163 pound right-handed defender put up 6 goals and 25 assists in 40 games. That point per game total of 0.76 put him in the top 5 among defenders in that league who played at least 30 games. He was 3rd behind Antti Tuomisto (taken by Detroit 35th overall) and Kim Nousiainen (taken by LA 119th overall) for 2019 draft eligible defenders from that league in points per game. Considering the 2 guys above him went much higher than he did, it’s very possible that the Penguins found themselves a puck moving defender that most people had never heard of. Impossible to project currently.
The Penguins took three power forwards, all with good chances of making an NHL impact one day, and two young Finns that their scouts believe are diamonds in the rough. In spite of only having five picks on draft day, the Penguins made the most of it. Penguins fans should be content with how their GM and scouting department did.
Check out some of the links below for videos on some of these players:
2019 NHL Draft : Nathan Légaré – 18-19 Highlights
2019 NHL Draft : Samuel Poulin – 18-19 Highlights