As you’d expect, success at the draft table has played a big part in the playoff success of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. With the 2017 NHL draft approaching quickly – the pick-and-pray prospect derby is June 23-24 in Chicago – here’s a look at how the two Stanley Cup finalists were constructed.
Number of players drafted by team: Nashville Predators (13), Pittsburgh Penguins (10)
The Preds count 13 of their own draft picks among the 26 players who have seen action during the team’s 2017 playoff run. Three of Nashville’s top four defensemen are homegrown – Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis – with P.K. Subban arriving from Montreal in a trade last summer. (Maybe you heard about that?) Overall, the Predators’ roster is comprised of 21 drafted players and five who entered the NHL – with Nashville or another team – as undrafted free agents.
Pittsburgh has 10 of its own draft picks among the 25 players who have suited up in the post-season, including seven forwards and both goaltenders. But with Kris Letang on the shelf due to a neck injury, Olli Maata is the only defenseman – of the eight who have dressed for Pittsburgh in the playoffs – who was drafted by the team. Overall, the Penguins’ roster is made up of 21 drafted players and four who entered the NHL – with Pittsburgh or another team – as undrafted free agents.
Number of first-round picks: Pittsburgh Penguins (7), Nashville Predators (6)
The Penguins have a slight edge when it comes to draft pedigree, with one more first-rounder on their playoff roster than the Predators. Both Pittsburgh and Nashville have four of their own first-rounders in their respective lineups, with the others coming over in trades.
The Pens’ first-rounders include four players drafted in the top five: Marc-Andre Fleury (first overall, 2003), Sidney Crosby (first overall, 2005), Evgeni Malkin (second overall, 2004) and Phil Kessel (fifth overall by Boston, 2006). Pittsburgh’s three other first-rounders are defensemen: Ron Hainsey (13th overall by Montreal, 2000), Ian Cole (18th overall by St. Louis, 2007) and Maata (22nd overall, 2012).
The lone Preds player drafted in the top five is Ryan Johansen (fourth overall by Columbus, 2010), but he didn’t make it into the Stanley Cup showdown after sustaining a season-ending thigh injury in the Western Conference final. And Johansen isn’t the only lofty draft pick who’s unavailable. Kevin Fiala (11th overall, 2014) is also done for the season after breaking his left leg in a frightening crash into the end boards against St. Louis in Round 2, while Colin Wilson (seventh overall, 2008) missed the first two games of the Cup final with an undisclosed injury.
Number of draft “steals” (players selected in fourth round or later): Pittsburgh Penguins (7), Nashville Predators (6)
Nashville has six players who qualify as steals while Pittsburgh has seven, but five of Nashville’s six steals were originally drafted by the Predators compared to just three of seven by the Penguins. More significantly, three of the Preds’ steals have been front and center during Nashville’s charge to the Cup final – Pekka Rinne (258th overall in 2004), Ekholm (102nd overall in 2009) and Viktor Arvidsson (112th overall in 2014). The three other late-but-great picks on Nashville’s roster: P-A Parenteau (264th overall by Anaheim, 2001), Craig Smith (98th overall, 2009) and Juuse Saros (99th overall, 2013).
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has Nashville to thank for the player who is arguably their biggest draft steal. Patric Hornqvist, the last player picked in the 2005 draft at 230th overall, was originally selected by the Predators and spent his first six NHL seasons in Nashville before being traded to Pittsburgh in exchange for James Neal in 2014. The only other draft steal who is playing regularly for the Penguins is Nick Bonino. He was taken 173rd overall by San Jose in 2007, then traded to Anaheim and Vancouver before being dispatched to Pittsburgh in exchange for Brandon Sutter in 2015.
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