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Penguins Draft Big Defensemen with No. 44; Brunicke Scouting Report

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Harrison Brunicke, Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Pick, 44th overall 2024

LAS VEGAS — A big minutes-eating defenseman from South Africa. You probably didn’t have that on your Pittsburgh Penguins draft bingo card, but president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas did. Saturday, with their first pick of the 2024 NHL Draft, the Penguins snagged Harrison Brunicke with the 44th overall selection.

As the Penguins have done three years running now, they reached into the WHL for their first pick. Brunicke plays for the Kamloops Blazers, which means he’s also gotten a healthy dose of defending 2023 Penguins first-round pick Brayden Yager.

Brunicke, 18, wasn’t as highly rated by the amateur scouting publications–his ranks were generally in the 50s through 70s, but two outlets, McKeens Hockey and Elite Prospects, graded him in the 20s.

The defenseman has the unteachables. He’s 6-foot-3, but so far only 187 pounds. The scouts say he skates well and can join the rush, but he also excels as a shutdown defenseman.

Brunicke agreed.

“I’m a two-way defenseman,” Brunicke said. “I can be used in all situations, whether it’s playing against top pairings or top lines, getting hemmed in your zone, playing defensive shifts, or translating (d-zone starts) into offense and hemming teams in their zone.”

Brunicke would also be the first South African-born skater to play in the NHL. He hasn’t been back to South Africa in about five years, but much of his family was watching from there.

Correction: The original post inaccurately stated Brunicke would be the first South African player. We have clarified that as the first skater. Goalie Olaf Kolzig was the first South African player.

The defenseman had 21 points, including 10 goals, in 49 games this season with Kamloops. He was Yager’s teammate as the pair played for Team Canada at the U-18 World Junior Championships. Brunicke scoried one goal and four points.