MEET THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS’ SIX 2024 DRAFT PICKS

2024 Draft Picks
29 Jun, 24
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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins may not have had a first-round pick at this year’s 2024 NHL Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop the Black & Gold from stockpiling some solid talent in the later rounds.

Armed with a pair of second round picks and (what eventually revealed itself to be) a strategy to target players with high hockey intelligence, Pittsburgh picked up four defensemen and a pair of forwards on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Here are the six newest Penguins, in order of selection…

SECOND ROUND, 44TH OVERALL

Harrison Brunicke (D) Kamloops Blazers
The Penguins went with a right-handed defenseman with their first pick of 2024, locking up transition ace Harrison Brunicke.

He loves activate on the rush and in the offensive zone. His outlet feeds are often perfect, ranging from the simple and underrated to the long-distance stretch passes. He’s a shifty, agile and athletic skater, which he uses to his advantage at both ends of the ice. He uses his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage in wall battles and breaking up plays with his stick.

Development coaches will be working to refine some decision-making and defensive structure over the next several years, but there is a fascinating skillset to work with here. Also, on the topic of fascinations, Brunicke was raised in Canada but born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the second South African-born NHL draft pick, joining Olaf Kölzig in 1989.
Brunicke will be eligible to play in the AHL full-time in 2026-27.

SECOND ROUND 46TH OVERALL

Tanner Howe (LW) Regina Pats
Just two picks later, Pittsburgh scooped up a pitbull in Tanner Howe. This young man’s relentlessness makes him a respected leader for his teammates and a respected adversary to opponents. But he doesn’t just buzz around. He produces offense, too.

Howe has been a point-per-game player in each of the last three seasons. Part of that can be attributed to riding shotgun to the prolific Conor Bedard for a while, but he had to shoulder the Pats’ entire offensive burden this year and did not balk at the challenge. He boasts a killer one-timer, cranking in goals from the half-wall or high slot, but he’ll also roll up his sleeves and whack in some ugly goals for his team.

Simply put, this is a player who has the willingness to do the thankless jobs that coaches and teammates love, and he still finds ways to contribute on the scoresheet. Howe will be AHL eligible for the 2025-26 season.

FOURTH ROUND 111TH OVERALL

Chase Pietila (D) Michigan Tech University
It may soon be a family affair with the Penguins, as Pittsburgh used its fourth-round pick on the younger brother of recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton signee, Logan Pietila. Unlike Logan, Chase is a defenseman and had a very successful freshman season with the Huskies.

Chase led Michigan Tech blueliners with 22 points (3G-19A), which was also good for fourth on the team, one spot behind Logan. Chase isn’t dynamic with the puck on his stick, but he is smart. His cerebral approach to the position makes him a reliable player in all three zones. He can always be relied on to keep a strong stick and maintain perfect gaps.

Chase is already 20-years-old, having been overlooked in both of the previous two NHL Drafts. He is technically AHL eligible next season, but it’s far more likely that he’ll return to the Upper Peninsula for another year or two at Michigan Tech.

SIXTH ROUND 175TH OVERALL

Joona Väisänen (D) Dubuque Fighting Saints
Once again, Pittsburgh returns to the back end and bolsters the defensive side of its pipeline with USHL First-Team All-Star Joona Väisänen.

Undrafted last year despite putting up good numbers in the Finnish junior league, this right-handed D-man impressed a lot of people with his mature and efficient play during his first season in North America. Under the tutelage of new Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Kirk MacDonald, Väisänen topped the team’s D with 31 assists and 40 points. But it’s not all about the stats sheet with this young man. He knows how to mitigate risk while finding open teammates, how to do so quickly and when under pressure, and how to kill an oncoming attack.

Väisänen never played professionally in Finland before jumping over to Dubque to maintain his NCAA eligibility. He is committed to Western Michigan University for the fall, a program that has proven to be great at developing pro prospects in recent years.

SEVENTH ROUND 207TH OVERALL

Mac Swanson (C) Fargo Force
The first of two seventh-rounders was a player the Penguins were likely stunned was available at this spot. A Clark Cup Champion. The USHL Playoffs MVP. Playmaking center Mac Swanson.

Swanson’s hockey IQ is impressive, especially when it comes to producing offense for teammates. He led the Fargo Force in assists (51) and points (77) during the regular season, then added league-leading five goals, 12 assists and 17 points during the playoffs. Penguins scouts would have gotten a great look at Swanson over the past two years in Fargo, as he was playing alongside Pittsburgh’s 2022 draft pick Zam Plante.

You may ask, “Why was a player of this caliber sitting there in the seventh round?” Well, he’s listed at 5-foot-7, 165 lbs. Furthermore, he’s not an elite skater, an attribute that typically help prop up undersized skaters at higher levels. That said, you can always practice your skating. You can’t teach the pure brainpower that Swanson shows.

Swanson will attend the University of North Dakota this coming fall.

SEVENTH ROUND 223RD OVERALL

Finn Harding (D) Mississauga Steelheads
The Penguins’ last pick of the 2024 NHL Draft was a fourth right-handed defenseman and another player passed over in the previous year’s draft. Finn Harding took a giant leap forward from his rookie season in the OHL, becoming a reliable rearguard in all situations for the Mississauga Steelheads.

His numbers don’t jump off the page, but Harding’s game develops an appreciation over time. He’s the type of defenseman who can calm things down for his team, whether it’s shutting down transition offense from opponents or quickly eluding a forecheck and delivering the puck safely to a teammate. His skating and defensive positioning were his biggest improvements from last year to now. He also knows how to stay disciplined while not being a wilting flower, either.

Harding may still have a long path to being an NHLer, but his improvements in several key areas make him worth the bet with the third-to-last pick of the draft. He’ll be AHL eligible in 2025-26.

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