Pittsburgh Penguins: A Look Inside the 2019 Draft Class

There was a lot of rumors on whether or not Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford was going to keep his first-round pick. If not, Pittsburgh has not had a first-round pick since the 2014 season where they took winger Kasperi Kapanen and then they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a part of the Phil Kessel trade the next offseason.

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Samuel Poulin

With the 21st overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Penguins selected right winger Samuel Poulin. He played in 67 games this past season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. Poulin scored 29 goals and recorded 46 assists. His plus/minus was 8.

In 10 postseason games, he scored eight goals and recorded six assists. His plus/minus was 8. Samuel Poulin also played in seven games with Canada for the U18 team. He scored one goal and recorded one assist. His plus/minus was -2.

Poulin has a lot of potential and he will start next season again in juniors. He is a very physical player and has great offensive instinct, but Samuel Poulin has a habit of taking plays off and this is a habit that Evgeni Malkin has. Poulin’s potential ceiling could be Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and that is a very good player to be compared too.

Nathan Legare

Pittsburgh traded the 98th, 157th, and the 207th overall picks to the Arizona Coyotes for the 74th pick. With that selection, the Penguins took winger Nathan Legare. Legare is 18 years old and he played with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL.

Nathan Legare scored 45 goals and recorded 42 assists in 68 games played last season. His plus/minus was 37. In seven postseason games, he scored three goals and recorded one assist. His plus/minus was 1.

Legare also played in seven games for the U18 team in the WJC for Canada. He scored four goals and recorded zero assists. His plus/minus was 3.

Nathan Legare is a solid skater and he never gives on any plays. Legare is also a very strong offensive player and that is probably one of the reasons why Pittsburgh traded up for him.

It is going to be very interesting where he starts out next season. Nathan Legare could be one of those guys that becomes a surprise during training camp. If he doesn’t make the club, they could either send him back to juniors or maybe start him at the AHL at only 18 years old.

Judd Caulfield

With the 145th overall selection in the fifth round of the NHL Draft, the Penguins decided to take another forward in the draft in Judd Caulfield. He is only 18 years old and Caulfield is also a very gritty player. In 28 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL, he scored six goals and recorded 19 assists. His plus/minus was 11.

In 64 games played with the US National U18 Team (USDP), Judd Caulfield scored 12 goals and recorded 24 assists.

In seven games in the WJC with the U18 team for the USA, he didn’t score or record an assist, but his plus/minus rating was 1.

He will be playing his college hockey next season at the University of North Dakota.

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Valtteri Puustinen

With the 203rd overall pick (seventh round) in the NHL Draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to take another forward in that draft in Valtteri Pusstinen. He played for the HPK in the Liiga league. It is Finland’s top hockey league. Pisstinen was one of the reasons why they won the title.

He scored 10 goals and recorded three assists in 47 games. His plus/minus was 8. In 16 postseason games, Valtteri Puustinen scored two goals and recorded three assists. His plus/minus was 5.

He recorded three assists in six games with the Finland U20 team in the WJC. His plus/minus was 2. Puustinen is 20 years old. He will go back to the Liiga League next season. Valtteri Puustinen has some good offensive instincts but he has some more developing to do before potentially coming over to the United States.

Santeri Airola

With the 211th pick in the NHL Draft (seventh-round), Pittsburgh decided to take defenseman Santeri Airola. He is only 18 years old. Airola is a very good puck possession player. He potentially has a lot of upside for a seventh-round pick, but Santeri Airola is also a project with this pick. In seven games with the Finland U20 team last season, he scored two goals and recorded two assists.

Next season, Airola will be playing with Kettera in the Mestis league. He will also play some games with the Finland U20 team again.

I thought Jim Rutherford had a very good draft once again. It was very interesting that the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to go with a forward-heavy draft rather a defensive heavy draft. Pittsburgh maybe should have considered drafting a goalie in the later rounds for depth reasons in the farm system.

Otherwise, you can’t blame the front office for making these selections. They also did an excellent job of hanging onto defenseman Kris Letang and winger Phil Kessel.

Now that the NHL Draft is over, this franchise is not done making moves and it is possible they will make another minor trade and sign a free agent or two to improve the roster.

How do you feel about the Pittsburgh Penguins 2019 Draft Class? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Glenn on Twitter @glennkaplan13.

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