1999 Draft Board – Pittsburgh

The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1999 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

The Penguins finished with 90 points, led by Art Ross winner Jaromir Jagr, and then beat #1 seed New Jersey in the first round before losing to Toronto in the second.

Available players

Goalies: Brian Leitza(Gr.II – RFA)

Defensemen: Jonas Andersson-Junkka(UE), Greg Andrusak(Gr.VI – UFA), Stefan Bergqvist, Bobby Dollas(Gr.III – UFA), Maxim Galanov, Tuomas Gronman(Gr.VI – UFA), Viktor Ignatjev(Gr.VI – UFA), Jeff Serowik(Gr.VI – UFA), Neil Wilkinson

Forwards: Jan Alinc(UE), Brian Bonin(Gr.VI – UFA), Rob Brown, Todd Hlushko(Gr.II – RFA), Mikhail Kazakevich(UE), Dan Kesa(Gr.II – RFA), Jiri Kucera(UE), Patrick Lebeau(Gr.VI – UFA), Brent Peterson(Gr.VI – UFA), Ryan Savoia(Gr.VI – UFA), Mika Valila(UE), Tyler Wright(Gr.II – RFA), Boris Zelenko(UE)

Assessment

Pittsburgh has twenty-three unprotected players, nineteen of whom aren’t even signed to a contract for next year. We’re only looking at three players off their overall list: defenseman Maxim Galanov and forwards Rob Brown and Tyler Wright.

Player reports

D Maxim Galanov – 25-year-old puck moving defenseman, 3rd-round pick of the Rangers in 1993

The case for taking Galanov – There aren’t a lot of defensemen who are able to move the puck and create offense in this draft, but Galanov is one of them. In three years playing in the AHL, he’s put up 17 goals and 53 points in 72 games (1995-96), 13 goals and 43 points in 73 games (1996-97), and 6 goals and 30 points in 61 games (1997-98). He spent most of this past year in Pittsburgh, putting up 7 points in 51 games.

The case against taking Galanov – The offense is all that he has, and he hasn’t shown that he can produce it in the NHL. He averaged 15 minutes a game in Pittsburgh, with some power play time, and had 4 goals and 3 assists in 51 games. He was also a -8 on one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams, worst among defensemen despite getting favorable ice time. He was outproduced in every facet by Bobby Dollas (among others), who is most decidedly not an offensive juggernaut. In the more open mid-1990s, Galanov had room to skate and produce offense in the AHL; in a tighter-checking game and in the NHL, he may be a complete non-factor.

F Rob Brown – 31-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick by Pittsburgh (1986).

The case for taking Brown – Offense, and lots of it. Although best known for his 49-goal, 115-point season early in his NHL career, Brown has produced insane amounts of offense everywhere he’s gone. He was drafted in 1986 after finishing a season that saw him score 58 goals and 173 points in the WHL, then tack on another 18 goals and 46 points in just 16 playoff games. The next year, he had 76 goals and 212 points (a WHL record that still stands) in just 63 games. When he ended up in the IHL after his stint in Pittsburgh ended, he put up 179 goals and 555 points in 322 games.

In the NHL the last two seasons, he’s had 28 goals and 64 points in 140 games. Obviously the NHL is a bit tougher to score in than the IHL, which is fine. Ultimately, we have to be aware of the fact that not every player we take in the expansion draft is going to be in the NHL this year. If Brown ends up in the IHL, we know he’s good for 50 goals and 120 points and can go a long way toward getting our young prospects exposed to a little bit of success.

The case against taking Brown – He’s had plenty of NHL time recently and hasn’t done much with it. His defense and physical play aren’t there at all, so all there is to go on is scoring. He’s not producing a ton of offense at this point, particularly at even strength, meaning that if he’s even in the NHL he’s likely to be limited to a power play specialist in a game where power plays are plummeting and mugging is taking over. Sure, give him open ice and a free flowing game and he’ll produce; neither one will be the case.

F Tyler Wright – 26-year-old forward, originally a 1st-round pick of Edmonton (1991)

The case for taking Wright – He’s the ultimate character forward, a guy who will do whatever it takes to win a game, to dig the puck out, to spark his team. He’s a natural leader and was a key part of Swift Current’s 1993 WHL championship as well as Canada’s WJC gold medal team that same year.

The case against taking Wright – Generally if a player is available in an expansion draft and has set an NHL record, he’ll be worth a second look. In Wright’s case, he set a record just last year: he played the most games in a season in history without registering a single point (61). 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points in 61 games. This isn’t exactly an anomaly; in his NHL career to this point, he has played 229 games and put up 8 goals and 15 points. In the previous 10 years (1989-90 to 1998-99), there have been three forwards who have played 200+ games and scored 10 goals or fewer: Wright, Tony Twist, and Ken Baumgartner. Only four have played 200+ games and scored 30 or fewer points: Wright, Twist, Darren Langdon, and Stu Grimson. Every player named except Wright is an enforcer. There isn’t enough character in the world to overcome the lack of production. He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against the limit.

That said, Wright has lasted this long for a reason. One doesn’t play 188 games on a perennial contender like Pittsburgh simply by accident, and odds are that they have a pretty good grasp on why they keep him around.

(Historical footnote: Wright would end up on an expansion Columbus team and play over 300 games there. He’s second in franchise history with three hat tricks.)

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