It’s not the most surprising news of the day, but newsworthy nonetheless. The Pittsburgh Penguins have officially informed the Minnesota Wild they will keep the 15th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, according to TSN Reporter Pierre LeBrun, who tweeted the news late Wednesday afternoon.
The Penguins owe Minnesota a first round pick, via the Penguins acquisition of Jason Zucker for defenseman prospect Calen Addison, slumping winger Alex Galchenyuk and a first-round pick. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford lottery-protected the pick, so the Penguins could defer the first-rounder to 2021.
And that’s what the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to do.
The Penguins were part of the Phase 2 NHL Draft Lottery because they failed to make the NHL playoffs, Round One. By losing in the Qualifying Round, the Penguins were one of eight teams eligible for the top overall pick because Phase 1 of the lottery awarded the first pick to an unnamed Qualifying Round losing team.
The Penguins did not win the Phase 2 lottery. Because they had the best record of the Qualifying Round losers, the Penguins will pick 15th overall, which is the last of the eight teams which lost.
The pick will be just the second first-round selection of Jim Rutherford’s six-year tenure as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2019 pick was his first, and the Penguins selected winger Sam Poulin of the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL.
Editor’s Note: Rutherford was named Penguins GM three weeks before the 2014 NHL Draft, and the Penguins selected Kasperi Kapanen in the first round. You may choose to count that pick, or not.
The Penguins and Jim Rutherford have otherwise traded their first-round pick on players including David Perron (2015), Phil Kessel (2016), Derick Brassard (2018), and used their top pick to trade down in exchange for Ryan Reaves at the 2017 NHL Draft.
After the team dealt Addison, who was a 2018 second-round pick, the Penguins prospect pool did not have a first or second-round draft pick playing at the minor league level. 2016 second-round pick Kasper Bjorkqvist finally turned pro after three years at Providence College, but suffered an injury six games into the season and missed the remainder of the year. 2018 second-round pick Filip Hallender was not extended an invitation to play in North America.