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NHL Scouts Loved Penguins 1st Round Pick; Extended Conversation w/ Canadiens

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Trade, Josh Anderson

MONTREAL — When rival teams praise your work, it stands out as especially shrewd and usually one that others wished they could do. As the National Hockey Now staff canvassed team professionals at the NHL Draft at the Bell Centre, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ pick stood out.

It has been quite a while since the Penguins received praise for their drafting work.

The last time multiple picks reached the NHL was 2015, and those players were Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon. You can insert your own adjectives about that draft.

*Marco D’Amico and other NHN staff members contributed to this report.

Multiple NHL team execs from the player development and scouting realms praised the Penguins’ first-round pick of Owen Pickering. In a not-for-attribution conversation, one rival team brought up Pickering, unprompted.

“Great growth potential. He’s just growing into his body. He’s a top-four d-man for sure,” one player development exec raved to an NHN writer.

The Penguins plucked Pickering with the 21st overall pick on Thursday night. The 18-year-old defenseman was just 5-foot-7 when he was drafted into the WHL two seasons ago.

Now he’s 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds. That’s a lot of growing in a short time. Forgive Pickering if he’s a little gangly. You can read up on Pickering and see his introduction press conference at the NHL Draft here.

The folks who are paid to know these things like the pick, which speaks well of the new staff, including director of amateur scouting Nick Pryor and assistant GM Chris Pryor.

Pittsburgh Penguins Trade Chatter

The Penguins have a few years of a salary cap blessing: Kris Letang at a lower cap hit. That may bite them in several years, but for the foreseeable future, Letang’s $6.1 million cap hit is a bargain.

GM Ron Hextall has a few more holes to plug in the forward lineup. The Penguins have just four of their bottom nine forwards under contract for next season. If a prospect such as Drew O’Connor claims a spot, that makes five, but it’s still a lot of puzzle pieces to put together in a short time.

The NHL free agent frenzy begins in four days.

One interesting note from the draft — Hextall and Montreal Canadiens Kent Hughes had extended face-to-face conversations.

It’s speculation, but let me toss out a new name: Josh Anderson, the gritty power forward type who always showed well against the Penguins as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Like the Penguins’ Bryan Rust, Anderson has worked his way into the NHL from the bottom up. Recall he was a bubble and lower line player for Columbus before finding his scoring stroke.

“You can see clearly that we need a couple more forwards,” Hextall said. “I feel pretty comfortable with our defense, but we do need a couple more forwards.”

With Letang, the Penguins are set on the blue line, unless Hextall is going to have a Summer of ’69 experience and go wild with multiple trades.

And that’s why we’re keeping eyes on Anderson. The 28-year-old winger is in the third year of a seven-year deal with a $5.5 million cap hit. At 6-foot-3, 222 pounds, Anderson would be “truculence” and a physical scoring edge the Pittsburgh Penguins have not had in decades.

The Penguins are a little short on puzzle pieces they can part with to acquire a talent like Anderson, but it’s not impossible, and a big body near the net would surely tax the Metro Division defensemen.

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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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kingpuck
kingpuck
1 month ago

Josh Anderson would be a consistent 25 goal scorer with Pittsburgh He’s big and will defend Teammates when needed. Putting him on our 1st line with Sid or 2nd with Malkin would be a huge win. Get a Zadorov for the back end and Kassian at 1/2 retained by Phoenix for our 3rd line and this team could score and bang with any team through the regular season through the playoffs.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

I SECOND THAT EMOTION!

Pete
Pete
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

Exactly what we need.

J1234
J1234
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

Totally agree with you and love that exact idea,
Sullivan just likes small players that are playmakers and have speed if they have any physicality he won’t play them and they eventually get traded away. That’s so irritating! It’s time for Hextall and Burke to mold the team and put there finger print on this team tell Sully you don’t have the option not to play the guys we get or move on to a different coach!

Last edited 1 month ago by JcNorthStar
Cal
Cal
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

Totally agree the team could use some nasty attitude when needed. Been saying for years the team needs to get bigger and meaner so not to be so easily pushed around and cheap shorted that causes injuries…see NYR series

Justin
Justin
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

I agree with everything you said, I’d love to have a McGinn-Blueger-Kassian 4th line, Defensively responsible shutdown line with physicality. Hell I’d even take Nic Deslauriers on the 4th line

Mwil1226
Mwil1226
1 month ago
Reply to  kingpuck

I agree as well – Hextall saying he’s comfortable with our defense concerns me. We don’t have one “D-Man” that can move opponents out of the crease. They’re in dire
need of a physical player on the backline.

David
David
1 month ago

Ok, it is encouraging that others are praising the Pens pick — BUT the fact remains that 20 teams passed on him. Maybe some of that was need for a forward, but there were other D men taken before him.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Ding-ding-ding-ding!

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Unless they’re desperate, a “top four d-man” isn’t what the vast majority of teams look for in the 21st overall pick. A top pair d-man is more like it. This guy seems a lot like P.O. Joseph to me.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Teams passed on Cale Makar too. Maybe you have heard of him. It depends on a teams needs as well.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

This is Fake News. Makar was the fourth player and second d-man taken in the 2017 draft. And that was after the Stars heavily scouted and strongly considered him at No. 3. They opted for Heiskanen, who has been their best d-man for most of the time he has been there. He also is one year younger than Makar.

Dean
Dean
1 month ago

Look at Anderson’s stats. He had one good year worth $5.5M the rest have been busts. It would need to be Pettersson and maybe a mid pick.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Dean

I kind of agree on Anderson. He is decent, but 5.5 is overpay. Over rated

Keith T.
Keith T.
1 month ago

When I think of “improving” the team and looking for a new horizon as critical as it is to add new quality and depth but also shedding dead wood and/or players that are not good fits. I can think of two players that have not really worked out. This is not a cut on them as I think that both Kapanen & Zucker are very talented players, but they have not really worked out in the Sullivan system. It might be difficult to move said players but there might well be good opportunities for these players elsewhere. Is there any… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Keith Thomas

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