Where Are They Now?: Pens’ First Rounders

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a trend of trading first round draft picks.

Sometimes trading a first round pick turns into Phil Kessel, who helped bring a Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh. Other times, trading a first round pick turns into two months of Jarome Iginla. Regardless, this article will dive into the Penguins last 10 years of first round picks and where they are now.

2007- #20 Angelo Esposito, Quebec. 

After years of picking in the top five, the Penguins finally had regular season success, dropping their spot in the draft. The Penguins hoped Esposito could still be a part of the team’s top six and compliment Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Esposito was originally regarded as the top overall pick of the draft, but due to declining stats, he fell to the Penguins at the twentieth spot. With his play declining even worse, the Penguins threw Esposito in a package to Atlanta for Marian Hossa. Hossa helped the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup Finals where they eventually lost to the Detroit Red Wings. Esposito, on the other hand, never played a game in the NHL. After spending much time in the AHL and the ECHL, Esposito was out of work and finally signed a contract in the Italian Hockey League. Esposito, now 27, will be most likely never see NHL action. He’s currently playing with SG Cortina of the IHL. Other players available at this pick: Max Pacioretty, Mikael Backlund, P.K. Subban

2008- Pittsburgh traded pick #29 to Atlanta as a result of the Marian Hossa trade. Atlanta selected: Daultan Leveille, Saint Catharines.

Other players available at this spot: Jakob Markstrom, Jake Allen, Slava Voynov
2009- #30 Simon Despres, Saint John. 

Coming off of a Stanley Cup Championship, the Penguins looked to add more depth to their defensive pool. Drafting Simon from the QMJHL, he was a player that was going to need a few years to develop. Despres finally moved to professional hockey after spending two seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Throughout almost his entire Penguins tenure, Simon was very inconsistent. Some days he would play stable and reliable defense, yet others he was unsound and shaky on the back end. His play improved during the 2014-15 season as he found top four minutes, but Despres was traded to Anaheim for veteran defenseman Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy was also shaky at first with the Penguins but eventually helped the team win its fourth Stanley Cup. Despres is still with Anaheim, and though his play is much better, he still plays much like he did with the Penguins. Other players available at this spot: Ryan O’Reilly, Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Clifford

2010- #20 Beau Bennett, Penticton. 

Looking to add a piece to their top six, the Penguins drafted Beau Bennett from his native California. Spending two years with Denver University, Beau played half a season of minor league hockey before finding a full time spot in Pittsburgh. Looking impressive in his first season, Bennett was supposed to be a top forward for the Penguins. Suffering multiple wrist injuries, Beau was never in the lineup enough to find consistent play. He was constantly out of the lineup with injuries, and when he was playing, he could never generate enough offense. Beau spent four seasons with Pittsburgh and won the Stanley Cup, but with the Penguins needing more cap space, Bennet was shipped to New Jersey for a third round pick. Beau will try to find better play and more opportunity now with the Devils. Other players available at this pick: Riley Sheahan, Kevin Hayes, Evgeny Kuznetsov

2011- #23 Joe Morrow, Portland.

A defenseman with great offensive upside, Morrow was a steady puck moving defenseman. After spending another year with the Portland Winterhawks, Morrow made the jump to professional hockey. Spending all of his time in the AHL, Morrow never played a regular season game for the Penguins. He was traded at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline for Brenden Morrow and then shipped to Boston a few months later as a part of the Loui Eriksson trade. Now in Boston, Morrow just signed a one year extension worth 800K and is struggling to make the Bruins lineup. Other players available: Vladislav Namestnikov, Brandon Saad, Ty Rattie, John Gibson.

2012- Pick number 8 acquired from Carolina as a result of the Jordan Staal trade. #8 Derrick Pouliot, Portland. 

Highly regarded by the Penguins management, Pouliot was drafted earlier than expected. Still a top prospect of the Penguins, Pouliot played an additional two seasons in Portland before coming to Pittsburgh. His play didn’t pick up as fast as Maatta which resulted in Pouliot spending much of his time in the AHL. Still struggling to make the Penguins roster, it should be interesting to see how the Penguins handle the Pouliot situation. I believe he can still be a top four defenseman in the NHL, and if the Penguins play him more this season, he can elevate his game. Other players available: Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko

2012- #22 Olli Maatta, London.

A player the Penguins scouts felt fortunate to fall to them turned out to be a top pairing defenseman. After spending just one extra season in London, Maatta made the Penguins opening night roster for the 2013-14 season and made an immediate impact. Though slightly inconsistent at points, Maatta has been a steady force for the Penguins over the last few years and was a big part of the Penguins Stanley Cup Championship. Signed for another six years, Maatta will be apart of this Penguins team for a long time. Without question, Maatta has been the best draft selection by the Penguins in recent years.

2013- Pittsburgh traded pick #28 to Calgary as a result of the Jarome Iginla trade. Calgary selected: Morgan Klimchuk, Regina.

Players available at this spot: Robert Hagg, Tyler Bertuzzi, Chris Bigras

2014- #22 Kasperi Kapanen, Kalpa.

The son of Sami Kapanen, Kasperi was a player that management thought could be an immediate boost to the team’s top six. After a great preseason, Kapanen didn’t make the team’s final roster, but was no doubt their best prospect. When the Penguins made the move to acquire Phil Kessel, though, the team needed a high level prospect to send back. That player was Kapanen. Now a member of the Maple Leafs, Kasperi was on the Toronto roster at the end of the 2015-16 season and should look to make the roster full time next season. 

2015- Pittsburgh traded pick #16 to Edmonton as a result of the David Perron trade. The pick was then traded to the New York Islanders. New York Selected: Mathew Barzal, Seattle.

Players available at this spot: Thomas Chabot, Kyle Conner, Nick Merkley

2016- Pittsburgh traded pick #30 to Toronto as a result of the Phil Kessel trade. Toronto traded this pick to Anaheim as a result of the Frederik Andersen trade. Anaheim selected: Sam Steel, Regina.

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