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Better Late Than Never: Penguins Have Hit on Picks Deep in Draft



The Pittsburgh Penguins’ amateur scouting staff probably can plan on sleeping in on July 8.

That’s because the second day of the NHL draft is scheduled to be conducted at the Bell Centre in Montreal then and, barring a trade, the Penguins won’t have a choice in the second or third rounds.

They do, however, have one selection in each of Rounds 4-7, and while the odds are against a prospect taken that late actually developing into a regular contributor in the NHL, the Penguins have managed to turn up some good players after the third round.

The headliner of that group is Mark Recchi, a fourth-rounder in 1988 who landed in the Hockey Hall of Fame after appearing in 1,652 regular-season games, scoring 577 goals and winning Stanley Cups with the Penguins, Carolina and Boston.

Recchi is the only player the Penguins have claimed in the fourth round or later to make it to the Hall and for every Ryan Malone or Rob Scuderi who has a long and productive career in the NHL, there’s a half-dozen or more Nathan Moons and Steven Cramptons and Leonid Toropchenkos who never skated a shift in the league.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to construct a competitive roster out of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ mid- and late-round selections over the years, even if some of those players had their most productive seasons with other clubs. And the roster (with players at each position listed alphabetically) would look something like this:


Dave Hannan (10th round, 1981) — He played on a few of the worst teams in franchise history, but was speedy and sound defensively, as well as being a good penalty-killer.

Jan Hrdina (5th round, 1995) — A responsible two-way center who could be counted on to produce double-digit goals every year.

Mark Johnson (4th round, 1977) — The son of Penguins coaching legend Bob Johnson, Johnson only played the first 136 of his 669 career NHL games here, but had 31- and 35-goal seasons with Hartford.

Max Talbot (8th round, 2002) — Even if he hadn’t been an accomplished defensive center and penalty-killer, Talbot likely would have earned a spot on this squad by scoring both of the Penguins’ goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final.


Rob Brown (4th round, 1986) — Despite skating like he was waist-deep in quicksand, Brown had world-class hands and thought the game more like Mario Lemieux than any other linemate Lemieux ever had.

Tyler Kennedy (4th round, 2004) — Kennedy was tenacious and feisty and capable of scoring goals in bunches.

Tom Kostopoulos (7th round, 1999) — The embodiment of a blue-collar forward, he never scored more than nine goals in a season but lasted 630 games in the NHL.

Mark Recchi (4th round, 1988) — Like Brown, he was part of the Kamloops-to-Pittsburgh pipeline in the 1980s and 1990s.


Jeff Daniels (6th round, 1986) — A member of the Penguins’ Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992, although he didn’t get into a playoff game in either season. The presence of Daniels, now an assistant coach in Carolina, on this list reflects the small number of NHL-caliber players the Penguins have gotten at his position late in the draft.

Ryan Malone (4th round, 1999) — Widely celebrated as the first home-grown talent to play for the Penguins, Malone piled up 179 goals and 191 assists in 641 games with the Penguins and Tampa Bay (plus six scoreless games with the New York Rangers.)

Shawn McEachern (6th round, 1987) — He was fast and versatile enough to play all three forward positions, and had six seasons with 24 or more goals over the course of his career.

Matt Moulson (9th round, 2003) — Moulson scored 176 goals in 650 NHL games, which is exceptional output for a ninth-rounder. Unfortunately for the Penguins, he got them all for Los Angeles, Buffalo, Minnesota and the New York Islanders.


Andrew Ference (8th round, 1997) — Played bigger than he was and possessed a high hockey IQ, although that didn’t translate to big offensive numbers during his 907 games with the Penguins, Calgary, Boston and Edmonton.

Ian Moran (6th round, 1990) — Perhaps the only defenseman in franchise history who sprayed WD-40 on his knees to keep them lubricated (or, at least, loose), he had a solid, though rarely spectacular, 11-year run in the league.

Jake Muzzin (5th round, 2007) — Back problems led to Muzzin plunging in the draft and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ gamble on him paid off nicely, albeit not for them. He never signed here, but has gone on to appear in 679 games with Los Angeles and Toronto, and is under contract to the Maple Leafs for two more seasons.

Michal Rozsival (4th round, 1996) — His intensity level fluctuated and he wasn’t the physical presence he could have been, but Rozsival skated well, had a good shot and won two Cups in Chicago.

Rob Scuderi (5th round, 1998) — A classic defensive defenseman — Scuderi scored as many as two goals only once in 12 NHL seasons — he was a valuable contributor to Cup-winning clubs with the Penguins (2009) and Kings (2012).

Chris Tamer (4th round, 1990) — Tamer’s toughness was his primary asset, as suggested by his career totals of 1,185 career penalty minutes and 85 points.


Patrick Lalime (6th round, 1993) — He set an NHL record for the longest undefeated streak by a goalie at the start of his career, putting up 14 wins and two ties in his first 16 decisions. That proved to be the highlight of his time here, though, because he had a lengthy contract dispute after his rookie season and his rights eventually were traded to Anaheim.

Greg Millen (6th round, 1977) — Millen put up a most respectable 57-56-18 record during his three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins before joining Hartford as a free agent in 1981. That was the second of six stops during what became a 14-year career.

So, what do you think? Should guys like, say, Michel Ouellet, Dave McLlwain, Rod Buskas and Frank Pietrangelo, to name a few, have made the cut? And if so, who should be dropped to open a spot for him?

Let’s discuss in the Comments section.