This weekend, the 2022 NHL Draft will kick off, and for the first time since 2019, the Penguins will have a first-round pick. In 2019, the team went with Sherbrooke Phoenix forward Samuel Poulin 21st overall. He was the first Penguins’ first-round pick since Kasperi Kapanen in 2014.
This year, the Penguins once again have the 21st overall pick, and there are several different players the Penguins could go with. I decided to pick the three most likely candidates, in my opinion, who the Penguins could opt to select on Friday night.
OPTION 1: LW Isaac Howard (US U-18)
This goal-scoring winger could help bolster a Penguins offense when he makes the NHL. He has a great shot and is a very good sniper. He is very similar to current Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, and he would add to an already pretty solid future winger depth with Poulin and Nathan Legare. He has 33 goals and 82 points in 60 games with the U.S. National U-18 Team and had 11 goals and 37 points in 27 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. The left-shot, 5’10” winger was ranked high as 12th by Sportsnet on their draft rankings, and he is expected to play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season. I would love it if the Penguins took this Hudson, Wisconsin native.
OPTION 2: C/RW Brad Lambert (Pelicans – Liiga)
He is an outstanding offensive player who can skate very well and handle pucks with care. He can skate fast and is dangerous with the puck in open ice. This Finnish forward could be a very good linemate for Legare or Poulin in the future and would be a pretty solid fit in the Penguins lineup. Lambert had four goals and 10 points in 49 games split between JYP and Pelicans in Liiga this season. The right shot, 6’0” forward would slot, is quite nice as a top 6 forward in the future.
OPTION 3: C Jiri Kulich (HC Energie Karlovy Vary – Czechia)
An all-around great player, the 5’11” center is known as a great skater who plays pretty similar to David Pastrnak. He had nine goals and 14 points in 49 games in Extraliga this season with Karlovy Vary. At the World U-18s, he won MVP of the tournament with nine goals in 6 games for the Czech Republic. Ranked as high as #13 for European Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, the forward is expected to return to Karlovy Vary for next season.
OTHER POSSIBLE OPTIONS
C Nathan Gaucher (Quebec Ramparts – QMJHL)
LW Ivan Miroshnichenko (Omskie Krylia – VHL)
LW Rutger McGroarty (USNTDP)
D Ryan Chesley (USNTDP)
What the Penguins do with the 21st overall pick is a mystery right now, but I’m expecting them to select a forward of some kind. Make sure to tune into the 2022 NHL Draft on Thursday at 7 PM EST to see what the Penguins do on the clock!