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Canucks Bosses’ Bad Run of NHL Drafts in Pittsburgh

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Vancouver Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin and President of Hockey Operation Jim Rutherford.

They’re not presently on a hot streak. Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin’s scouting department for the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t exactly light it up at recent NHL drafts.

Proof that it’s an inexact science and pretty much a crap shoot if you’re not picking in the first round.

Of course, they could pull a Patrick Roy and ignore this critique by saying, “I can’t hear you with these two Stanley Cup rings in my ears.”

They’ll plan on and hope for better success with a change of scenery and a different staff with the Vancouver Canucks.

According to our cohorts at Pittsburgh Hockey Now, it’s been high and dry productivity-wise there since 2015. The PHN lads collaborated together on the original article. The contents are below. VHN has added a few comments:

The last time the Penguins drafted an NHL regular player was 2015. A man we have interviewed at VHN and call “Spronger,” Daniel Sprong from Amsterdam of all places, was picked in the second-round and most recently played in the Pacific Division with the Seattle Kraken. 2015 5th-rounder Dominik Simon has bounced around and was traded to the Anaheim Ducks this past season.

2016: 2nd-round pick Filip Gustavsson is a 24-year-old goalie now with the Ottawa Senators. Enough said. He may still turn into something but it’s for a different franchise. He was traded there in 2018. The second of their second-round picks, Kasper Bjorkqvist, made his NHL debut this past season and played six games. His lone point was his first NHL goal. He appears to be ticketed for NHL depth roles or fill-in fourth-line duty.

Update: Bjorkqvist bolted for his native Finland this week.

Third-rounder Connor Hall never played professionally. He’s currently playing for the University of New Brunswick after five years in the OHL. Fifth-round pick Niclas Almari is a career minor leaguer who returned to Sweden after splitting the last five seasons between the Wilkes-Barre Scranton (WBS) Penguins and the Swedish Elite League.

2017: Complete washout. Second-round pick Zachary Lauzon suffered concussion issues in juniors. His career ended in 2018. Third-round pick Clayton Phillips didn’t impress in his first rookie camp, spent two years at the University of Minnesota before sitting out a year to finish his college career with Penn State. He played one professional game with the WBS Penguins at the end of this season but isn’t an NHL prospect. Fifth-round picks Jan Drozg and Linus Olund flashed a bit of talent but did not stick. Olund is back in Sweden and Drozg is an AHL depth player.

2018: Second-round pick Calen Addison and a mid-first-round pick were the Penguins’ trade cost for Jason Zucker. At 22, he’s bounced back and forth from Minnesota to the AHL, and played 18 NHL games. Fellow second-round pick Filip Hallander made his NHL debut this season and could be a fourth-line type player. Fifth-rounder Justin Almeida was demoted to the ECHL this season.

2019: Many of the 21st-overall picks in the NHL Draft of the last decade made their NHL debut within a couple of seasons. However, in his first pro season spent at the AHL level, first-round pick Sam Poulin was scratched at mid-season and moved to centre after not producing on the wing. He had a second-half rebound and his future is still being written, though he does not project as a top-six talent at the NHL level. Third-rounder Nathan Legare was also a healthy scratch at mid-season with WBS, and the kid with the booming wrist shot had only 16 points (7-9-16) in 57 AHL games.

Fifth-round pick Judd Caufield is a middle-line player at North Dakota after three seasons. He had 20 points (11-9-20) in 39 games this season.

Seventh-rounder Valterri Puustinen has been the surprise of the class. He made his NHL debut this season and scored 42 points (20-22-42) in 73 AHL games. However, his size may limit his future. He’s only 5-foot-9, 183 pounds.

2020: Too soon. None of the picks have made their professional debut. 2020 second-round pick Joel Blomqvist platooned for Team Sweden at the World Juniors. Third-rounder Calle Clang was traded as part of the Rickard Rakell deal. 2020 fourth-rounder Lukas Svejkovsky has silky mitts but a tiny 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame. Fifth-rounder Ravis Ansons continues to progress but remains inconsistent. He might make his professional debut next season, but seems destined to be a bottom-six player at the AHL level.

Too soon for evaluation on the 2021 NHL Draft for Pittsburgh, and again they didn’t have a 1st-round pick. Rutherford was gone already and Allvin was shortly on his way out.

The Penguins do have a 1st-rounder in 2022, at 21st-overall.

The Vancouver Canucks presently have the 15th-overall selection in the first round of the NHL Draft coming up next Thursday evening in Montreal.

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