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NHL Draft

Penguins Draft Table: Nate Danielson, Pens are Interested



Nate Danielson, Pittsburgh Penguins draft possibles. NHL Draft prospects.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are interested in Nate Danielson. Of course, to what degree and if they intend to select him should he be available with the 14th overall pick in next week’s 2023 NHL Draft might still be the subject of internal debate.

Assuming the Penguins still have the 14th choice when Commissioner Gary Bettman reads the card at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville next Wednesday.

At the NHL Draft combine last week, Danielson confirmed he met with the Penguins. The 18-year-old center from the Brandon Wheat Kings is, by some accounts, highly underrated, even as he is frequently linked to teams picking in the middle of the first round.

“(The meeting) was good. They had a great group of guys there, and they’re super-chill, I guess,” Danielson said. “They just wanted to get to know me a bit better and get to know my personality. So it was fun getting to talk to them.”

Twenty-three teams chatted with Danielson before and during the combine, which speaks to his appeal to NHL clubs and the uncertainty surrounding the first-round rankings.

Danielson, 18, could go in the top 10, or as late as the low 20s.

He looks up to two-way centers Nick Suzuki and Elias Lindholm, which should tell you a bit about his aspirations in the NHL. He’s slightly more than a point-per-game player in the Western Hockey League, but doesn’t project as a top center in the NHL.

He’s a straight-ahead player who plays well in the corners and gets between the dots in the offensive zone. Smaht Scouting notes his lack of stickhandling ability, but praises his corner compete-level and ability to move the puck in traffic.

Danielson also has good speed to accelerate away from defenders in the low zone and retrieve pucks — a vital skill in the Penguins’ system. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound center acknowledged that he spent the last year working on his quickness.

And yes, NHL teams can ask some weird questions. There is a recent trend to show players a five-second clip and ask the player to guess what happens next. He’s also been asked what type of animal he would be.

I don’t have anything too weird. I’ve heard lots of stories of stuff that’s happened that have been pretty funny, but the weirdest one (for me) was,What type of animal are you?’ “ Danielson reported. “I said wolf … I kind of thought about it before, but I’m someone who likes to be part of a team, and I think I’m a natural leader, so that was kind of my thinking behind that.”

Former Team USA and Penguins coach Herb Brooks might be proud. After all, his credo was that legs feed the wolf. Danielson generally keeps his feet moving on the ice, though there are some skating technique issues that pro coaches might clean up. (He can have a choppy stride when he’s changing direction, which slows him up, especially in the defensive zone.)

The Red Deer, Alberta native also can shoot the puck. Multiple scouting services note his shot. He does have a nifty snap that is neither elongated nor slow.

“It’s something that I’ve worked on for a long time. So just working on changing the release, and there are all different types of shots now, so (I) continue to work on that as well,” said Danielson.Just quickness and accuracy are part of it.”


Pittsburgh Penguins interim GM Kyle Dubas has a history of trading down at the draft, but in this case, there are pros and cons to such a move. The Penguins currently lack a prospect who will soon be ready to make a difference in the NHL, and trading down, even for additional picks, may not help that cause.

It’s hard to predict when a player could be NHL-ready — those things are better assessed in rookie camps and training camp against elevated competition. While Danielson has been invited to Team Canada camps, he has not yet made a national squad. He figures to get another invite this summer and be a legitimate contender to wear Canadian colors.

More than a few draftniks think Danielson and the Penguins are a good match, and he checks a few boxes the team should be looking for. He’s got speed, size, and a straight-ahead game.

The one thing he may not have is availability.