1998 Draft Board – Pittsburgh

The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.

As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.

PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh won the Northeast Division and then was promptly taken out in the first round by Montreal.

Available players

Goalies: J-S Aubin

Defensemen: Jonas Andersson-Junkka(UE), Stefan Bergqvist(Gr.II – RFA), Bobby Dollas, Hans Jonsson(UE), Alexei Krivchenkov(Gr.II – RFA), Fredrik Olausson(Gr.III – UFA), Neil Wilkinson

Forwards: Jan Alinc(UE), Serge Aubin(Gr.II – RFA), Rob Brown(Gr.V – UFA), Joe Dziedzic, Alex Hicks, Todd Hlushko, Tony Hrkac, Andreas Johansson(Gr.II – RFA), Mikhail Kazakevich(UE), Jiri Kucera(UE), Valentin Morozov(UE), Ed Olczyk(Gr.III – UFA), Domenic Pittis(Gr.II – RFA), Sean Pronger(Gr.II – RFA), Ryan Savoia, Alek Stojanov(Gr.II – RFA), Mika Valila(UE), Garry Valk(Gr.II – RFA), Boris Zalenko(UE)

Assessment

Pittsburgh left 27 players to choose from, of whom we’re looking at four: defenseman Fredrik Olausson and forwards Domenic Pittis, Garry Valk, and Andreas Johansson

Player reports

D Fredrik Olausson – 32-year-old defenseman, originally a 4th-round pick of Winnipeg (1985)

The case for taking Olausson – One of the NHL’s most underrated defensemen for over a decade, Olausson can do a bit of everything in his own zone and a lot of everything in the offensive zone.  Any power play becomes a legitimate scoring threat with him on the ice, he’s excellent at moving the puck up the ice and generating offense at even strength, and he’s been used to kill penalties throughout his career.  Defensively, he’s not overly aggressive, preferring to play solid positional defense that negates offense more than anything.  He has scored 10 goals in a season five times in his career, one of those being a 20-goal season.  He’s also hit 50 points twice, and 60 points twice more.

Overall, he’s a very smart player who can be counted on to make the right plays time and time again.  We’ll get a few years of headache-free play out of him if we take him and get him signed.

The case against taking Olausson – One has to wonder if Olausson is going to start slowing down, or if that has already begun.  This past year on a high-scoring Penguins team, he managed just 6 goals in 76 games and failed to score in the playoffs, as they were bounced in the first round by Montreal in a big upset.  The Penguins’ power play wasn’t exactly stellar during the season, checking in at 16.5%; Olausson had as many power play goals (2) as Brad Werenka.

Olausson’s last playoff goal was in 1992, and in his 12-year career his team has only escaped the first round one time.  Although it’s impossible to point to one defenseman as being a primary cause, the bigger part is that he’s been negated in tight-checking games.  His high-scoring offensive days were all back several years ago in a more free-flowing game, which is no longer the case.  Regular season games today look more like playoff games back in the day, when he wasn’t producing.  He also wasn’t part of Sweden’s Olympic team this past year, which is more than concerning if a high-quality veteran player is passed over in favor of guys who are more lightly-regarded like Tommy Albelin.

I’ll also point out that he’s a pending Group III free agent and would count against our limit.  He’s likely to have a smaller contract than the very similar Dmitri Mironov, so picking him for compensation purposes doesn’t make much sense.  And I seriously question whether we could get him signed at all without breaking the bank.

F Andreas Johansson – 25-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of the Islanders (1991)

The case for taking Johansson – Admittedly he’s a bit of a project, but Johansson possesses dynamic offensive skill and needs a place to showcase it.  He was buried on the Penguins’ depth chart behind Jaromir Jagr, Rob Brown, and Alexei Morozov, leaving him with only a bit of ice time that was mostly spent among grinders and checkers than scorers.  We definitely don’t have Jagr to hold him back; we can put Johansson in our top-six and get offense from him immediately.

It’s worth noting that in the last two years, he was a part of Sweden’s 1996 World Cup and 1998 Olympic teams.

The case against taking Johansson -Most players with offensive skill will have something to show for it.  Johansson so far has 9 goals and 29 points in 95 career NHL games.  It’s not just the NHL either; he didn’t produce in the AHL or IHL either, and didn’t do anything on an Islanders team that gave him plenty of opportunities to showcase his skill.  Maybe it’s because he can’t stay in the lineup; he played only 50 games last year, 42 (plus 10 minor league) the year before, and 51 minor league plus 3 NHL games the year before that.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent, and it makes no sense to burn one of our free agent spots on a project who hasn’t shown much to this point.

F Domenic Pittis – 24-year-old forward, originally a 2nd-round pick of Pittsburgh (1993)

The case for taking Pittis – He’s scored every step of the way so far, with 124 goals and 246 points in his last two seasons of junior hockey.  He’s had 46 goals and 130 points in his last two seasons split between the AHL and IHL.  So far his NHL experience has consisted of one game, mostly because he’s not suited for a checking line role and his offense isn’t on the same level as Robert Lang, Martin Straka, and Ron Francis.

The case against taking Pittis -He’s a scoring forward who’s been below a point per game in the minors, hasn’t played well enough to get more than one single NHL game in four professional seasons, and we’re considering him?  Besides those concerns, he’s a pending Group II free agent and would count against our limit; if we like him that much, then we can go after him in free agency.  Actually selecting him makes no sense.

F Garry Valk – 30-year-old forward, originally a 6th-round pick of Vancouver (1987)

The case for taking Valk – He’s an all-around winger who can contribute offensively and on the power play, defensively and on the penalty kill, and energy and toughness at all times.  His pro career began at age 22, and he has only 17 minor league games in his entire career; the rest have been in the NHL.  He was a part of the Ducks’ first-year team and stayed there for four years, so coming to an expansion team wouldn’t be a jarring experience for him.

In Anaheim’s first year of 1993-94, he played his best hockey, scoring 18 goals and 45 points while also getting plenty of power play and penalty kill time.  He would end up being shuffled down the lineup over the ensuing years, but was still valuable enough to be traded straight-up for J.J. Daigneault two seasons ago.

We won’t be contenders immediately; we can give Valk the chance to produce, and he will.

The case against taking Valk -He got power play time in Anaheim’s first year, but not in their second or third or fourth.  It’s not like this team was loaded with All-Stars where this could be explained at all; they have the one top line of Selanne-Rucchin-Kariya, but not much after that.  And his penalty kill time diminished to the point where he wasn’t doing it at all even before being traded to Pittsburgh (where he also didn’t get power play or penalty kill time).  Valk has also missed a lot of time recently, missing 55 games in the last two seasons.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent who would count against our limit.  We know that we can use him on our third and fourth lines, but there’s no point in using one of those precious free agent spots on a bottom-six winger.