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NHL Draft

Penguins Draft: Picks From Rounds 4-7, One Electric but Small Prospect

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Mac Swanson, Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick, NHL Draft 2024
Photo Courtesy of USA Hockey

LAS VEGAS — The pace of the picks slowed, as did the recognizability of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ selections. After grabbing a couple of Team Canada players in the second round, the Penguins had four more picks to unearth talent in the later rounds of the 2024 NHL Draft.

The Penguins have a trio of players who are in college or headed to school in the fall, including a diminutive prospect whom director of amateur scouting Nick Pryor seemed excited to select.

“Competitiveness” was a running theme through all of the Penguin’s mid and later round picks.

Chase Pietella, Round 4, 111th Overall

The Penguins selected Chase Pietella of Michigan Tech in the fourth round, with the 111th overall pick. This was Pietila’s third year being eligible for the draft. The 20-year-old defenseman is 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, but Pryor felt Pietela had a breakout year of sorts after arriving in college after a pair of seasons with Youngstown of the USHL.

“He’s got size, he’s got physicality, he defends really well,” Pryor said. “He can move the puck on the breakout and in transition. But, with Chase, it was nice to see his year that he had made progress from his time in the USHL.”

Joona Väisänen, Round Six, 175th Overall

In the sixth round, the Penguins selected Joona Väisänen of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Another defenseman, Pryor, praised Väisänen’s rounded skill set with the puck and skating.

It seemed a value pick as multiple scouting publications had Väisänen rated around 100, but the Penguins selected him with the 175th overall selection. The 19-year-old defenseman was part of Team Finland at the World Juniors (U-20), playing all seven games without a point.

This season, he left the Finnish junior leagues for Dubuque, where he posted nine goals and 40 points in 53 games. In the fall, he’s headed to Western Michigan.

“Smooth skating defenseman that moves the puck really well on the breakout in transition, in the offensive zone, on the powerplay — Just a really good skater and really good puck mover,” Pryor said. “And he defends really well. He uses his feet and stick to defend in close plays.”

Mac Swanson, Round Seven, 207th overall

The great gamble. He has enough talent to get to the show.

In what seems an annual tradition, the Penguins had a pair of seventh-round choices, and before you say they never pan out, recall that RW Valtteri Puustinen was on the selections in 2019 and the only member of the Penguins’ draft class to play more than a few games with the NHL club.

With the first selection, the Penguins visited Ralph for the 207th pick overall. They selected Mac Swanson, who is enrolling at the University of Dakota this fall after a couple of seasons with the Fargo Force of the USHL.

The Ralph is short for the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It is a brass and marble shrine to hockey known as the “Palace on the Prairie,” and UND remains one of college hockey’s blue blood programs.

However, Swanson doesn’t just lack size, he’s downright small at 5-foot-7, 157 pounds. He’s got talent with the puck and in his skates, but the size factor will be significant. Yet several outlets had a third-round grade on Swanson.

“Just a really exciting hockey player to watch. He’s small, but he’s competitive, and he’s highly, highly skilled and highly intelligent. So we were again excited to get him, especially where we got him.”

Finn Harding, Round Seven, 223rd Overall

With their final selection and second to last in the NHL Draft, the Penguins reached for their fourth defenseman of the draft, Finn Harding.

Harding is a second-year eligible defenseman from the Mississauga Steelheads. At 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, he has the frame to play at the next level, though the scouting reports indicate he isn’t a confrontational defenseman. He had 10 goals and 34 points in 68 games.

“Smart, intelligent defender. He’s a guy that takes pride in his own end,” said Pryor. “He’s a high-character kid, and our diligence was very, very positive on him. So, we just felt good about the progress that he made.”

Elite Prospects scouting report on Harding indicated he allows skaters room to enter the zone before contesting possession.

None of the Penguins’ picks in rounds 4-7 were present on Saturday. However, all are expected to attend the Penguins’ Development Camp from July 6-10.