The Pittsburgh Penguins head into the 2023 NHL Draft with six draft picks and only two in the top 96. This means that they will need to rely heavily on their late-round selections to try to extract value out of this draft.
This is something that the Penguins have struggled with in recent years. Their last significant pick outside of the second round was Dominik Simon, who they selected 137th overall in 2015. As a team that is trying to compete for the Stanley Cup, this has hindered their success in recent years by hurting their depth at all positions.
Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning consistently are able to mix in late-round picks with their core players in order to maximize their chances of winning in a salary-cap league. Recent examples are players like Nick Perbix, Ross Colton, and Mathieu Joseph. On top of these players, there are many others in recent drafts that have been able to be serviceable NHL players when faced with injuries.
Related: Meet the Steal of the 2023 NHL Draft
Latest News & Highlights
The other good part about picking quality players in later rounds is from an asset management perspective. Drafting players that can outperform their draft slot makes other teams covet them so they can be used in trades to further improve the team. All of these factors could greatly improve the Penguins and should be a top priority in the future.
Outside of Connor Bedard, there seems to be a lot of speculation and uncertainty about who will be selected in the picks to follow. Although Leo Carlsson, Adam Fantilli, and Will Smith seem to be the likely combination of the next three picks in some order, even that is hard to hammer down. As a result, there could be many players who fall or rise depending on team preference. However, based on the pre-draft rankings, here are a few players who seem primed to be available later on Day 2.
Rodwin Dionicio is an overage defenceman, having been passed over at last year’s draft. The 19-year-old struggled offensively earlier in the season with the Niagara IceDogs. In 17 games he only produced four goals and three assists for seven points. Then, after being traded to the Windsor Spitfires in January, he broke out, producing 43 points in 33 games.
The biggest knock to his game is his skating ability. He struggles with his agility, speed, and quickness. Despite these weaknesses, his biggest skill is arguably his deception and the way he can side-step opponents to make a play. As pointed out in the thread above, he’s an elite passer at the Ontario Hockey League level, driving offence from the blue line in a way many cannot.
Dionicio is likely to be available late on Day 2 of the draft. He is unranked on many public lists and on the ones he is ranked on, he ranges from 90-172. If a team can grab him late, with the proper development, he could be an exciting addition to any prospect pool. He would surely help stock the Penguins’ bare cupboards.
There are only two players in MHL history to play over 30 games and produce above 1.3 points per game (P/GP) in their draft-eligible season, Nikita Kucherov and Yegor Klimovich. Scoring 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points in only 36 games for Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk, Klimovich can produce.
His scouting profile casts him with shades of fellow 2023 draftee, Zach Benson. He’s a diminutive winger who possesses good speed and skating ability, with his hands and brain working at a high pace as well. He can connect on difficult passes while weaving around defenders. His raw tools alone make him an interesting player, especially if he falls outside of the third round.
In recent years, teams have selected overage players that have made an immediate impact. Players like Janis Moser, Nils Aman, and Egor Sokolov have become valuable players and prospects to their respective teams to varying degrees. Maros Jedlicka could very well be the next name. He is currently only ranked by one scouting service, McKeen’s Hockey at 208th.
Jedlicka has spent the past two full seasons in the top men’s Slovakian league. In that time, he has played 83 games, scoring 34 goals and 39 assists for 73 points. This past season, through 39 games, he scored 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points. Although the league is not as competitive as the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) or Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), scoring at the pace Jedlicka has in Slovakia the past two seasons is impressive regardless.
Jedlicka has all the raw tools teams typically covet: size, speed, and scoring touch. Having already been passed over twice before, he should be available late on Day 2. If he is, he could be a great value pick for a team that nabs him in the back half of the draft.
The 2023 Draft presents Kyle Dubas with his first opportunity to make his mark on the club. If he is able to find hidden gems in the later parts of the draft, he could set the franchise up for success for years to come. On the flip-side, if he fails to do so, it could hurt the team immensely in the long run.