2024 NHL Entry Draft
26 Jun, 24
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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Given the Stanley Cup Final went the distance with an exciting seven games, hockey fans may not have realized that the 2024 NHL Entry Draft was lurking in the shadows. Now that the Cup belongs to the Sunshine State, the time has come for the draft to step into the spotlight this weekend.

Hosted at Sphere in Las Vegas, Nevada, the first round of the 2024 Draft will take place on Friday, June 28, followed by rounds two through seven the next day, Saturday, June 29.

The Pittsburgh Penguins do not own a first-round pick this summer, but they do possess a pair of second-round selections. Those picks come almost back-to-back, slotted in at 44th and 46th overall.

With two picks in quick succession like that, there are several different strategies that Kyle Dubas and his staff could employ. The Penguins could elect to take a high-ceiling prospect with one pick, and then a safer, high-basement player with the other. They could swing for the fences and go for big-time, boom-or-bust style prospects with both picks. Of course, they could also just stick with their list and tackle their best player available at both spots.

While we do not have a crystal ball to know what Dubas and co. will be thinking when it comes time for Pittsburgh to submit their picks to the central registry, we can forecast some of the names that might be available at that point in the draft. The following are eight names to keep an eye on when the Penguins are on the clock in round two…

COLE HUTSON (D) USNTDP – This may be wishful thinking, but a scan of various scouting services shows that this dynamic defenseman could be late-first-round fodder or still potentially be available for Pittsburgh at the 44th or 46th pick.

Hutson is a dynamic defenseman who can skate like the wind and distributes the puck with ease. He can fly on the rush or change directions on a dime, and you’ll rarely see him mishandle plays. He’s a defenseman who wants the puck on his stick and demands to make an impact on the game.

However, his great offensive prowess can come at a cost in his own end. At 5-foot-10, 165-lbs., he’s not a physical powerhouse at the net-front, either. But if he commits to rounding out his defensive game, his ability to produce offense can potentially reshape an organization’s blue line in an instant.

HARRISON BRUNICKE (D) Kamloops Blazers – Staying on the back end, right-handed shot Harrison Brunicke doesn’t put up the same kind of numbers that other D-men on this list do, but he’s still an intriguing option because of his instincts and athleticism.

Brunicke loves to be active in transition, whether that’s snapping a perfect outlet pass, jumping up into the rush, or both. His skating ability makes him very tough to maneuver around as a defender, too. He uses his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantage in wall battles and breaking up plays with his stick.

He’ll have to further refine several aspects of his game to be an impact player at the next level, but he’s already shown that can be trusted (and thrive) in key situations as he did during Kamloops’ playoff run and Memorial Cup bid in 2023.

Tanner Howe (LW) Regina Pats – On the forward side, Tanner Howe is the pitbull type of power forward that any organization would be thrilled to have on its depth chart. His relentlessness makes him a respected leader for his teammates and a respected adversary to opponents.

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. He boasts a killer one-timer, but he’ll roll up his sleeves and whack in some ugly goals for his team, too.

Howe might not possess the sheer skill to be a sure-fire first rounder, but his willingness to do thankless jobs and still find ways to contribute on the scoresheet make for a tantalizing prospect in the ensuing rounds.

TEDDY STIGA (LW) USNTDP – Teddy Stiga was one of the biggest risers in this draft class, going from an undersized, overlooked winger to someone who might even hear his name called late on Day 1 at Sphere…

Stiga wows with his exceptional skating and penchant for playmaking. He made significant improvements to his overall explosiveness this year, blowing past defenders on a regular basis. He doesn’t just save that lightning-quick movement for scoring chances either. He has an unceasing motor and will do his part on the backcheck and in the trenches, even if he can’t push around bigger foes.

Stiga paced all draft-eligible forwards on the USNTDP in points this year, and he further helped his case with a strong, six-goal, 11-point showing at the U18 World Juniors in April. Concerns about his size will always linger, and he’ll need to be coached up on the defensive side of the game too. But Stiga proved a lot of doubters wrong with his strong play in his draft year, so who’s to say he won’t continue to quiet his detractors after draft day?

ARON KIVIHARJU (D) HIFK – Perhaps no defenseman in this draft class is as divisive as Aron Kiviharju. That wasn’t always the case, as scouts had been raving about him since he joined Finland’s top junior league when he was only 15 years old. One year later, he was playing with grown men in the Liiga.

Throughout all that time, Kiviharju has showcased a tremendous knack for creating offense. He’s cerebral with the puck, picking apart opponents in transition and in the offensive zone. He’s not very big, but he’s shifty, illusive, and unpredictable. Yet his draft stock ranges from middle of the first round to middle of the third round.

Part of Kiviharju’s volatile ranking stems from him losing 90% of this season to injury. A knee ailment cost him another year of his career when he was 14 years old. Another factor could be the insane hype that surrounded him when he was teenager now working against him. For those reasons and the size factor, there is a very real chance that an ace defenseman could still be on the board ripe for Pittsburgh’s picking.

DEAN LETOURNEAU (C) St. Andrew’s College – Dean Letourneau is another polarizing player, but even scouts who aren’t as enticed as others won’t deny the intriguing package this prospect comes in. He’s gigantic at 6’6.5”, 210 lbs., and he produced 75 goals and 152 points in 70 games this season.

That’s right, over a goal per game and more than two points per game.

Granted, that production came at the Canadian prep school level, which isn’t considered as competitive as the top junior leagues in North America. He’ll get his chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke with an upcoming season in USHL, then skating for Boston College. If his production can hold up against stiffer competition, he checks all the boxes of a truly dominant power forward.

MAREK VANACKER (LW) Brantford Bulldogs – While he may not tower over opponents like Letourneau, Marek Vanacker has his share of physical gifts, as well. He’s improved his strength a great deal in recent years, reflected most in his powerful stride.

There aren’t many holes in this young man’s game. He’s smart in all three zones, has a wicked shot, knows how to create space for himself and teammates alike, can play up-tempo or slow things down. Sure, a quicker release, improved agility and adding more muscle will help him moving forward, but there doesn’t appear to be a glaring weakness in his repertoire.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Vanacker is that he played almost the entire season with an injury, battling through a torn labrum that eventually required offseason surgery. Such an injury may have hindered his production and hurt his night-to-night consistency, yet he still led his team in goals (36) and points (82).

WILL SKAHAN (D) USNTDP – This is not the high-ceiling type prospect like others on this list, but there is definitely an explosive factor to Will Skahan’s game. Usually, that comes by blowing up anyone unfortunate enough to skate to his side of the ice.

Skahan is a throwback, bruiser defenseman who loves to make opponents’ lives miserable. Battles against this 6-foot-4 rearguard are punishing, and he’ll enthusiastically throw his weight around at his net-front. He’s not a turnstile either, knowing how to maintain a good gap in transition against perhaps more skilled, shifty attackers. He’s limited on offense, but that’s understandable given his straightforward approach to the position. Even in today’s game, there’s certainly still value in grabbing a blueliner who can punish foes on a shift-by-shift basis.

White Tux


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