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Draft Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins – Finally, an opening bid

It’s official, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rejoined the NHL when it comes to drafting in the first round.

Baby Steps. Yes, the Penguins finally have a first-round draft pick – their first since 2014 – but they’ve already traded their second- and third-round selections. With five picks, Pittsburgh is basically going into the 2019 festivities par for the course, based on its recent history of trading for the present at the expense of the future.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: Opponents figured out backup goalie Casey DeSmith in the second half, and given starter Matt Murray’s bad luck with injuries, the Penguins need to figure out their level of confidence in the crease. To be sure, Murray is the guy when healthy, but DeSmith needs to live up to his contract extension.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: The defense corps has been locked into some eyebrow-raising contracts lately, specifically to Erik Gudbranson and Jack Johnson. With little coming down the pipeline, the Penguins need to either acquire more skill on the back end or develop some in the coming years, because the blueline is getting old.

CAP SITUATION: Simply put, the Pens are in a tight spot. GM Jim Rutherford has less than $4 million, and the summer hasn’t even begun. The good news is Pittsburgh already has two goalies and six defensemen locked up, but the forward corps has only nine players under contract. Zach Aston-Reese is the most prominent RFA. The rest are fourth-liners.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: While Teddy Blueger won’t be Calder-eligible next season (he played 28 NHL games this year), he will be the most prominent youngster on the roster. Blueger is a hard-nosed winger who fits in the bottom-six and is dangerous on the penalty kill. The Pens have a couple other options up front in NCAA alums Anthony Angello and Sam Lafferty, both of whom had impressive rookie campaigns in the AHL. Both are very good skaters.

DID YOU KNOW: Center Jordy Bellerive of WHL Lethbridge had a scare in the summer of 2018 when a bonfire explosion severely burned his hands and other parts of his body. Luckily, he recovered and once again captained the Hurricanes this season.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Kris Letang, 62nd, ’05
Jake Muzzin, 141st, ’07
Matt Murray, 83rd, ’12
Maxime Talbot, 234th, ’02
Jake Guentzel, 77th, ’13
Matt Moulson, 263rd, ’03
Tyler Kennedy, 99th, ’04
Dan Carcillo, 73rd, ’03
Bryan Rust, 80th, ’10
Robert Bortuzzo, 78th, ’07

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 102
100+ NHL GAMES: 25
PERCENT SUCCESS: 24.5%
NHL RANK: 1st

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