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Penguins Add Size, Skill And Depth at Draft

Saturday, 06.23.2007 / 10:42 AM / Features
By Joe Sager  - pittsburghpenguins.com
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Penguins Add Size, Skill And Depth at Draft
(RELATED LINK: Penguins Draft Coverage Homepage)

COLUMBUS
, Ohio
– Adding depth was one of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goals at the NHL Entry Draft. 
Angelo Esposito/Getty Images

They believe they achieved it Saturday as the two-day event concluded at Nationwide Arena. The Penguins selected three centers, three defensemen and a winger in Rounds 2-7.

The moves complement the selection of Angelo Esposito in Friday night’s first round. 

“I think it went real well. I think we really added a nice mixture of forwards and defensemen,” Penguins General Manager Ray Shero said.  “We got some size and, ideally, I would have liked to have picked a goaltender at some point, but he got taken a little before we wanted to. That’s the way it is and we’re happy with where we are. We got some depth.”
 
However, there were no surprises for Pittsburgh like Friday’s selection of Esposito at 20th overall. He was the top-rated prospect for many months before slipping in the rankings later in the season. 

“I think the scouting staff did a real good job. They were very prepared. But, they weren’t very prepared to have a nametag produced for Angelo Esposito’s jersey, so they did a good job except for that one,” Shero said with a laugh. “We’re taking some chances on kids like every other team, but I think that’s what you need to do. We’re happy with the guys we got.

Keven Veilleux/Getty Images

“These guys are going to take time, there’s no doubt. Let’s be honest, not all of these guys are going to be able to make it, let alone be a regular player in the AHL. That just seems to be how it works out and that’s OK,” he continued. “I think development is really good. We have some guys going to college and that will buy some time with their development and we have some guys who will go back to juniors for a couple years. So, we’re buying some years for these players who are eventually going to be in our system. With the way free agency is in our league now at 27, you need players to fill some spots. Hopefully, we have found a few who could do that.” 

The Penguins picked center Keven Veilleux from Victoriaville (QMJHL) in the second round (51st overall).  The 6-4, 202 pound center is a native of Saint-Renee, Quebec, and tallied 55 poins (20+35) in 70 games last season.

“He’s a big guy who can play center and wing. His size was a huge factor for us. We’ll see,” Shero said. “I think he has a little ways to go, like the rest of them. He’ll go back and play junior hockey next year and I think that will be a big step for him.” 

Veilleux speaks very little English, but certainly knows about the Penguins. 

Casey Pierro-Zabotel/Getty Images

“Crosby, Malkin – he knows our team and, obviously, he knows the top players,” he said via Penguins assistant coach Andre Savard. “He wants to improve his skating explosion. He will work at getting to the NHL, but he’s not setting any time limit.

The Penguins had a pair of third-round choices and used them on defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (78th overall) and center Casey Pierro-Zabotel (80th). The 6-3, 196-pound Bortuzzo had 14 points and 67 penalty minutes in 63 games with Kitchener in the OHL last season, while the 6-1, 205-pound Pierro-Zabotel had 116 points (51+65) in 55 games with Merritt of the BCHL Tier 2 junior league. 

Pittsburgh is a great organization and I am happy to be in it now,” Pierro-Zabotel said. “I like to go to the front of the net and score the goals right in front of the net.”

Pierro-Zabotel will attend Michigan Tech next season. 

“I am excited to go there. It’ll be a good year,” he said. “There were other colleges, but I chose Michigan Tech because I thought it’d give me the best opportunity to play.”

The Penguins had two fourth-round selections as well. They chose winger Luca Caputi with the 111th-overall choice and defenseman Alex Grant with the 118th-overall pick. 

Last season, the 6-2, 184-pound Caputi had 65 points (27+38) in 68 games with Mississauga of the OHL. Grant, a 6-2, 185-pounder, had 32 points (12+20) and 108 penalty minutes in 68 games with Saint John in the QMJHL.

In the fifth round, the Penguins selected Jake Muzzin with the 141st pick. The 6-2, 206-pound defenseman had four points (1+3) in 37 games with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL last year. 

Pittsburgh added his teammate, Dustin Jeffrey, in the sixth round. The 6-1, 205-pound defenseman had 92 poins (34+58) in 68 games with the Greyhounds last season.

PENGUINS DRAFT PICKS

First Round
20. Angelo Esposito

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2005-06 Quebec Remparts QMJHL 57 39 59 98 45 23 6 5 11 4
2006-07 Quebec Remparts QMJHL 60 27 52 79 63 5 4 3 7 2

Second Round
51. Keven Veilleux

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2005-06 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 33 2 13 15 4 5 0 1 1 2
2006-07 Victoriaville Tigres QMJHL 70 20 35 55 53 6 1 5 6 4

Third Round
78. Robert Bortuzzo

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2006-07 Kitchener Rangers OHL 63 2 12 14 67 9 1 2 3 8

80. Casey Pierro-Zabotel

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2004-05 Merritt Centennials BCHL 58 6 6 12 19          
2005-06 Merritt Centennials BCHL 60 20 35 55 29          
2006-07 Merritt Centennials BCHL 55 51 65 116 42          

Fourth Round
111. Luca Caputi

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2004-05 Mississauga Ice Dogs OHL 48 5 1 6 25 -- -- -- -- --
2005-06 Mississauga Ice Dogs OHL 32 3 0 3 43 -- -- -- -- --
2006-07 Mississauga Ice Dogs OHL 68 27 38 65 66 5 2 1 3 0

118. Alex  Grant

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2004-05 Antigonish Bulldogs MJAHL 50 7 9 16 36          
2005-06 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 47 4 9 13 58 -- -- -- -- --
2006-07 Saint John Sea Dogs QMJHL 68 12 20 32 108          

Fifth Round
141. Jake Muzzin

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2006-07 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 37 1 3 4 10 13 0 4 4 6

Sixth Round
171. Dustin Jeffrey

2004-05 Mississauga Ice Dogs OHL 53 10 15 25 20 -- -- -- -- --
2005-06 Mississauga Ice Dogs OHL 30 6 9 15 26 -- -- -- -- --
2005-06 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 39 12 11 23 10 4 1 2 3 2
2006-07 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 68 34 58 92 40 13 6 12 18 11
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