Pittsburgh Penguins: Mock Draft Choices and Reasoning

The Hockey Writers recently held a full seven-round mock draft, and I had the pleasure of picking for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, right now the focus is more on whether or not the Penguins will win their qualifying series against the Montreal Canadiens, but it doesn’t hurt to look ahead to what prospects the Penguins could add to their organization.

We conducted this draft under the assumption that the Minnesota Wild would acquire the Penguins’ first-round pick from this year as part of the Jason Zucker trade. However, with the new playoff format cemented, the Penguins could retain that pick, which changes the make-up of their draft haul.

Related: Penguins’ Best and Worst Trades of the Decade

The rules were simple: no trading, just pick a player. Due to various moves, the Penguins only added four players in this mock draft. However, I am confident that I found some solid pieces despite the lack of draft capital, and that began, fittingly, with pick 87.

87. Emil Heineman

What was I thinking?

The Penguins’ draft began with an absolute steal. Some have Heineman going in the second round, but I managed to snag him late in the third round. For a team that has extended its championship window by drafting high-potential wingers, Heineman fits the bill here.

Emil Heineman Leksands IF J20
Emil Heineman of Leksands IF J20 (Leksands IF J20)

Heineman dominated in the Swedish SuperElit – Sweden’s equivalent of the AHL. He had 41 points in 29 games, paving the way to 11 games in the SHL. He is an offensively inclined forward who uses his strong skating skills and playmaking ability to create an attack. He’s got good size and has shown the ability to utilize it.

Other players on my radar:

I only had one other player I considered for this pick: Oliver Suni, who went to the St. Louis Blues with the 92nd pick. Suni is another European winger with good size and offensive instincts. However, Heineman’s potential was far more enticing to me, making my consideration of Suni brief.

118. Theo Rochette

What was I thinking?

A fourth-round steal? Okay, probably not, but I am convinced that I got a player who will carve out a professional career. At what level he finds that career remains to be seen.

Theo Rochette Quebec Remparts
Theo Rochette of the Quebec Remparts (Jonathan Roy)

Rochette had 39 points in 49 games this season in the QMJHL. Generally, he hasn’t been a dominant scorer throughout his junior career, but he has been productive. He has great vision, making his passing ability one of his most enticing tools. If you put high-octane wingers alongside him, you could see his game climb to another height.

Other players on my radar:

I had a winger and a defender on my mind before I opted for the center Rochette. On defense, I almost opted for the KHL’s Alexander Nikishin, selected 123rd by the Blues, who have enjoyed my rejects so far in this draft. I could be convinced that he was the better pick. The winger I considered was Alex Laferriere, who went to the Detroit Red Wings at 125th overall. At the end of the day, given the Penguins’ prospect depth on the wing, I liked Rochette’s upside as a center within the organization.

149. Joonas Oden

What was I thinking?

A low-risk low-reward depth forward. This wasn’t a swing for the fences, it was a swing for contact. After being passed over in the 2019 Draft, Oden made a name for himself this season in Finland, raising his draft stock. He is a player that could come over and play in the AHL starting next season.

Related: Penguins’ 13 Seasons of Playoff Memories – Stanley Cup Final

Realistically, Oden won’t become much more than a bottom-six winger in the NHL. Otherwise, he could become a good pro that helps fill out a competitive AHL roster. I like his speed, and I like that he didn’t shrink after getting passed over in last year’s draft. That shows character, and that’s a trait worth drafting.

Other players on my radar:

I considered taking Hayden Fowler who, to me, offers the same upside as Rochette. I decided that he would have been a bit redundant, and Fowler was selected by (who else?) the Blues with the 154th pick. There were other players I thought about, but 149 was too soon.

180. Joe Miller

What was I thinking?

I also made the picks for the Vegas Golden Knights, and Miller was a player I considered for them one pick earlier. He’s an undersized winger that dominated during his junior season of high school hockey. He is set to play for the University of Minnesota in 2021, and chances are that he’ll need those extra years of development and growth.

Miller’s offensive abilities will catch your eye. The trick for the 17-year-old is whether or not he’ll be able to translate those abilities as his competition gets tougher. He is a player with the potential to break out as he gets older.

Other players on my radar:

I really like Ethan Bowen, and I considered taking him here. Miller’s youth leaves more to the imagination, and that was more enticing to me here at pick 180. Other than that, I was pretty confident that this was going to be the pick.


The Penguins come away from this mock draft with three wingers and a center. Should I have targeted a defender at some point? Maybe, but I’m pleased with this group regardless. I think Heineman could be a real steal at 87th overall. The other three have varying pro potential, and I’m okay with that.

Related: Gretzky vs. Lemieux – Head-to-Head

The biggest wild card in all of this is that the Penguins could now retain their first-round pick, given that it was lottery protected. Adding a talent from the top of the draft to this group would catapult it from “good” to “great” immediately. That being said, the goal in Pittsburgh is to win the Stanley Cup; building for the future is secondary.

How did I do? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comment section down below!