3 Penguins’ First-Round Targets in 2022 NHL Draft

The 2022 NHL Draft is set for July 7 and 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. The 2022 draft class is an interesting one, and the Pittsburgh Penguins will be a part of the first round with the 21st overall pick. However, they will not pick again until the later rounds, so they have to make that first-round selection count. Who will fit best into coach Mike Sullivan’s system in the future? Let’s find out.

Brad Lambert, Center/Right Wing, Pelicans (Liiga)

Central Scouting’s Ranking: #10 (among European skaters)

Forward Brad Lambert is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft. He spent last season playing in the Finnish Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, where he was born. At one time, he was projected to be drafted somewhere in the top five, but after a mediocre season, he has slipped in the rankings, which could be good news for the Penguins.

Lambert stands out from the rest in his draft class because of his skating ability. His speed alone is impressive, but he also has the ability to make quick stops and switch directions before defenders even have time to catch their breath. His ability to change speeds and slow down quickly allows him to not only create shot attempts but also passing lanes. His almost perfect stride helps with his balance, which makes it almost impossible to knock him off the puck.

Brad Lambert, JYP
Brad Lambert, JYP (Mandatory Credit: Jiri Halttunen)

Lambert’s puckhandling goes right along with his skating. His ability to get the puck through the neutral zone and beat defenders off the rush is a skill that will only get better as he matures. He is able to maintain the puck in the offensive zone, which is obviously a plus, but he has been known to wait a little too long before passing it off, which is something he needs to improve. If he is still on the board when the Penguins pick, they may just pull the trigger on him. 

Lane Hutson, Right Defense, USNTDP (USHL)

Central Scouting’s Ranking: #25 (among North American skaters)

At first glance, defenseman Lane Hutson does not look like much of a threat. At 5-foot-8, 148 pounds, he is used to being underestimated. There have only been five defensive players in the NHL since 1990 listed at 5-foot-8. Hutson is determined to be number six.

Related: Top 5 Underrated American Prospects in the 2022 NHL Draft

Elusive is a good word to describe Hutson’s style of play. He invites pressure from his opponent because his puck skills and mobility allow him to create plays. He is also very aggressive and not afraid to play in traffic, which are two areas the Penguins were definitely lacking this past season. Finally, he is very competitive and will do whatever he needs to win. That style would fit very nicely in Pittsburgh.

Owen Pickering, Left Defense, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Central Scouting’s Ranking: #15 (among North American skaters)

Defenseman Owen Pickering has been making improvements to his game since he was drafted into the Western Hockey League in 2019. This past season, he played with the Swift Current Broncos and ended the year with nine goals, 24 assists and 33 points. 

Owen Pickering Swift Current Broncos
Owen Pickering, Swift Current Broncos (Candice Ward / Swift Current Broncos)

Pickering is a good skater with excellent forward speed, but his backward skating needs some work as he struggles with his crossovers, which takes away from his speed and momentum. His offensive game is pretty solid, and he can adjust pretty quickly from a bad pass. He also has an amazing slapshot and quick release. One of his biggest struggles has been consistency in his own zone, as he has been known to turn the puck over when under pressure.

While Pickering’s defensive game has been improving, there are still some areas that need some work. He needs to continue to work on playing more aggressively and closer to his man, as he tends to give up too much space when defending the rush. He is definitely a work in progress and will more than likely be available when it comes time for the Penguins’ first-round pick.

Penguins’ Draft Day

The Penguins’ busy offseason will continue through the rest of this month and into early July as they navigate free agency and the draft. Will their first-round selection be used on a defenseman? Or will they draft a forward? Fans will be holding their breath through the first 20 selections in hopes that they make their pick count.

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