The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2018 NHL Draft was like many others that the team has experienced over the past several years. The team traded away its first-round pick at the 2018 Trade Deadline in an attempt to make a deep playoff push. While they were quiet on the first day of the draft, the Penguins found value in the second round and beyond.
So far, just six players from this draft have made their NHL debuts, including top pick and Calder Trophy candidate Rasmus Dahlin. None of Pittsburgh’s crop of picks have even reached the AHL level, but they all possess strong traits that could lead to future NHL success.
Defenseman Calen Addison – 2nd Round, 53rd Overall
The Penguins’ first selection of the 2018 draft was a type of player that Pittsburgh has always loved: a puck-moving defenseman. Calen Addison is the latest high-ceiling offensive blueliner that the Penguins have picked up and so far he looks to fit the mold.
The 5-foot-11 Canadian had a monster 2017-18 campaign with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. He buried 11 goals and 65 points before notching another 19 points during a deep postseason run. This season, he’s top-five among WHL defensemen with another 52 points, including 27 on the power play.
Despite his small frame, Addison does have a pretty strong shot from the point and knows how to drive the offensive game. His shot is also fairly accurate for his level of experience and it only seems to be getting better. Addison might be the best overall prospect in the Penguins’ system right now.
Forward Filip Hallander – 2nd Round, 58th Overall
Pittsburgh traded up to make another second-round pick with the Swedish Filip Hallander still on the board. They moved up six spots by trading the Senators third-round pick and their own fifth. Like Addison, Hallander slipped a bit further than most expected, making this second round duo look like a major success for the Penguins.
The 18-year-old forward doesn’t look out of place in the Swedish Hockey League facing the most experienced players in the country. Hallander has seven goals and 17 points in 34 games after scoring 20 points in 40 games last season.
One of the most important steps in his development will be figuring out whether he’s better suited on the left wing or as a center. Hallander has great offensive abilities and is a strong skater, but may not have the overall ice vision to be as effective as a center. As he continues to develop his intangibles, he should make for a strong top-nine forward. On top of that, he’s clearly with a team that sees a lot of potential in him, which is always good for a young player’s confidence.
Center Justin Almeida – 5th Round, 129th Overall
Coming in at just 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Justin Almeida’s offensive prowess was somewhat overlooked as he slid down to the fifth round last year. Still, it’s hard to ignore how successful he’s been at the WHL level.
Almeida potted 43 goals and 98 points with the Moose Jaw Warriors during the 2017-18 campaign and is already up to 77 points (32 of those coming on the man advantage) in just 49 games this season. It’s shaping up to be his second straight season among the top-10 WHL scorers.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) February 7, 2019
He turned 20 years old earlier this month and doesn’t appear to be physically ready for the next level just yet. However, with his dynamic speed and play-making abilities, he could make an impact at the NHL level once he gains a bit of size.
Forward Liam Gorman – 6th Round, 177th Overall
Liam Gorman is the biggest wild card of this group and rightfully so — he was a sixth-round selection. The 6-foot-3 forward will take his talents to Boston University next season where he’ll continue his development.
At 194 pounds, Gorman should fill out his frame a bit over the next few years with Boston University. It will be very important for him to work on both his speed and physicality, giving him the best chance at making it to the NHL. Late-round picks are often seen as lottery tickets, but the Penguins snagged two in 2018 that could become winners.
Overall, it seems as though Pittsburgh’s 2018 draft was a decent one given that the team took just four players and none in the first round. They got a pair of players they loved that slid back just a few slots during the second round. On top of that, the Penguins acquired two more young forwards with some upside down the road late in the draft. Only time will tell how these players pan out, but the team has plenty to look forward to.