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Deadline Passes, 2017 Becomes Worst Penguins Draft Class Ever

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Clayton Phillips

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a few draft stinkers in their 55-year history, but not since 1967 had an entire class failed to dress for an NHL game. Not one. The class of ’67 had only two members, and neither cracked the show, but that was a 12-team league and a different world. Until the 2017 Penguins draft class, every subsequent draft had at least someone somewhere put on an NHL sweater.

The last hope for the ill-fated 2017 Penguins draft faded on Monday as sources confirmed to PHN that the organization did not extend a contract to third-round pick Clayton Phillips before the Aug. 15 deadline to sign collegiate draftees whose NCAA eligibility has expired.

He was the last chance, although team officials have not ruled out inviting him to training camp next month.

The star-crossed class was a confluence of bad luck and bad decisions. The Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champions and former GM Jim Rutherford wanted to add muscle for an ultimately successful back-to-back attempt. The Penguins traded out of the first round into the mid-second and sacrificed prospect Oskar Sundqvist to acquire the “new sheriff,” Ryan Reaves.

The team circled prospect Zachary Lauzon as a first-round talent and subsequently selected him with the St. Louis Blues’ second-round pick (51st overall). Unfortunately, the promising defenseman suffered a severe concussion and lingering effects while playing for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL in 2018.

He was not able to continue his hockey career.

The trade with St. Louis didn’t work very well, either, as head coach Mike Sullivan eventually relegated Reaves to the press box or limited usage, and the Penguins traded him to the Vegas Golden Knights that season as part of the Derick Brassard deal.

Phillips, 22, was the 93rd overall pick. From Fargo of the USHL, he committed to play for the University of Minnesota. However, Phillips lasted two seasons in Minnesota before sacrificing a full year so he could transfer to Penn State.

Last season, Phillips set career-highs with 12 points and five goals in 32 games. He played one game for the WBS Penguins on a tryout contract after his collegiate career ended.

The entire 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins draft class was Lauzon, Phillips, Jan Drozg (152nd overall), Linus Olund (155th overall), sixth-rounder Antti Palojarvi (186th), and seventh-round pick Will Reilly.

Drozg is now a depth player with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and Olund played just one season in North America (61 games for the WBS Penguins) before returning home to play the last three seasons for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League.

The WBS Penguins website lists Reilly as unsigned, which means there are no remainders from the class playing in the organization.

The previous low bar was one NHL game set by the 2008 draft class, which had only four picks, beginning with fourth-rounder Nathan Moon.

At least the 2008 class had a legendary story — Fifth-round pick Alexander Pechurskiy was an emergency call-up. After Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson were injured, the WHL goalie was to back up third-goalie John Curry in Vancouver on Jan. 16, 2010. However, Curry surrendered five goals, and head coach Dan Bylsma thrust Pechurskiy into the game.

Pechurskiy made 12 saves in 36 minutes of action. He allowed just one goal in his first and last NHL appearance.

Pechurskiy also became the answer to another trivia question as he became the first Russian goalie to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s currently in the second-tier Russian league, according to his Wikipedia page. He never again played for the Penguins.

The bad juju of the 2017 draft not only extended to the draftees and Reaves, but to the Reaves trade, as well. Reaves was part of the Brassard trade, which could kindly be described as poor and, more aptly, an epic failure. Brassard was traded the following season after rejecting his role and underperforming as the third-line center.

The other low-water mark was the three-player class of 1978, which produced just five NHL games, including four from second-round pick Mike Meeker.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Yep
Yep
1 month ago

Hot Take : Penguins win their series vs Rags if they have Reaves. Think of it like this – Rakell gets taken out with an illegal hit to the head. Next move is up to the Penguins. Reaves makes certain that at least one of the Rangers stars has a season ending injury. Rags can escalate but Reaves is the equalizer. The dirty hit on Crosby never happens. Penguins in 6.

Wasnt
1 month ago
Reply to  Yep

I bet you get a bunch of dislikes for stating the obvious

Fredrick
Fredrick
1 month ago
Reply to  Yep

Brassard trade really set us back. We lost Reaves and Cole 2 players who i felt really were underappreciated. With both players on this team come playoff time we would have had a different look against Washington. I do agree if Reaves was still with our team. He would bring a different element

Cal
Cal
1 month ago
Reply to  Fredrick

I have never seen Brassard play live but what I’ve seen of him on tv I could never agree with the sense he was an above average player. I see a below average player that cashed in playing on a really good Ranger team in the past. (I know Dave disagrees and that’s fine) . I see that trade as the start of the end of Penguins dominating regardless of goaltending issues. The teams dynamics immediately changed to one that lost a bit of confidence and swagger…”it”. Just my opinion.

Ryan Barkley
Ryan Barkley
1 month ago

Dude so what. He’s 3rd round pick and still young. This is nonsense article