Pittsburgh Penguins are known for their high selection of tours and late robberies. However, along with these players come some additional draft picks that never work out. The team has had their fair share of these over the past 20 years, so I decided to review them and give you the five worst picks they’ve made since the 2000 NHL Draft entry.
5. Bo Bennett (1st round, ranked 20th overall in 2010)
When you look back at Bennett’s career, it’s sad to see how quickly you went down the hill, and it wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough. He couldn’t find a way to consistently stay healthy, finding ways to get injured in training, games or even goal celebrations.
Recruited from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Bennett scored 41 goals and 120 points in 56 games with the Penticton Vees before heading to the University of Denver for two seasons, where he scored 13 goals and 38 points in 47 games. Everything was looking good in his development, and that continued into his first professional season, scoring seven goals and 28 points in 39 games for the Wilkes Barr/Scranton Penguins in the AHL, but that all changed in the NHL.
In a rookie season in the National Hockey League, Bennett scored three goals and 14 points along with 6.4 goals over the substitute (GAR) through 26 games. Then the injuries started. After the junior season, Bennett was unable to play more than 49 games in a single campaign with the Penguins, and his production was very low, so the team his shipment to the New Jersey Devils for a third-round pick after winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.
Bennett spent stints with the Devils and St. Louis Blues, went to Russia to play in the KHL, then signed with the Arizona Coyotes in 2019-20, but was confined to AHL club in Tucson all season. He is not currently signed by the 29-year-old. Whether you want to blame a lack of driving or injuries, this has been a very promising choice for the Penguins for some time, but never achieved.
4. Johannes Salmonsson (Second round, 31st place in 2004)
While Salmonson wasn’t a first-round pick like Bennett, he was drafted just 11 points below and he has no excuse for injuries not to criticize him. He never did, despite being one of the most recognizable Swedish players in the entire draft.
Salmonsson had no goals and three points in 25 games for Djurgardens IF Stockholm at SEL during his draft year. He was coined for his flexibility, hard work attitude, and great skating, but it’s clear that he never really spread outside of Europe. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound wing never made it to North America, leaving penguins at a loss as to its evolution.
Salmonson has spent the past 17 years split between Swiss-A, SHL (formerly SEL) and DEL. He currently plays for Oskarshamn IK of SHL, he has four goals and 11 points in 27 matches. He never played a single game in the NHL.
3. Joseph Morrow (first round, 23rd place in 2011)
When the Penguins drafted Morrow’s 23rd pick in 2011, they were hoping for a future left-back who could play in the top four, perhaps alongside Christopher Letang. In his draft, he scored nine goals and 49 points in 60 games for Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League (WHL), and was even better the following year with 17 goals and 64 points in 62 games.
Penguins ended up moving Moro As a cut-out to the Dallas Stars versus striker Brandon Morrow, a 2013 third-round pick (which ended up going to Jake Goetzel, by the way). Despite producing at every level, he was unable to find his game in the NHL, and played for many different organizations, including the Stars, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets and Devils.
Today, Moreau plays in LIIGA with Assat Pori, where he earned 11 points through 29 matches. The talent is clearly there with Moreau, as he had no trouble producing until he made it to the NHL. However, it seems that he can never modify his way of playing in the Major League, which has cost him a place.
2. Derek Poliot (1st round, 8th place in 2012)
Pouliot, like Morrow, also had high hopes from the Penguins fan base, who believed he could be a key part of their future blue streak when he was drafted eighth overall in 2012. He had 11 goals and 59 points in 72 games with the Winterhawks. In his draft, he had nine goals, 45 points from 44 games the following year. He has drawn comparisons to Letang in terms of playing style, as a man who is physically defensive but offensive.
Pouliot has already had a chance to prove himself in the NHL multiple times, winning two Stanley Cup championships, but he wasn’t a regular part of the squad in either win. He played 67 games in Pittsburgh, totaling two goals and 14 points while being a full defensive responsibility, and was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for defender Andre Bedane and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
Pouliot found his game lightly in his first season with the Canucks, with three goals and 22 points in 71 games, but the following year he scored just 12 points in 62 games, leaving to walk and go to the Blues at free agency. Since then, he’s been in and out of the NHL, is currently part of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, and spends the entire season with the Leigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL.
When pieces like Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl, Teuvo Teravainen, Tom Wilson, Colton Parayko and Jaccob Slavin fell later than Pouliot, it hurts to think what would have happened if the penguins had gone a different route.
1. Angelo Esposito (First round, 20th overall in 2007)
Choosing Esposito is one that will surely haunt penguin lovers. The Montreal-born central player was selected to finish first overall in the 2007 draft class after a whopping 39 goals, 98 points in a 57-game campaign during the 2005-06 season with the Quebec Rimparts of the Quebec Major League Hockey League (QMJHL). After a slight, but still astonishing drop, 27 goals, 79 points in 60 games, Esposito slipped to eighth place in most draft ratings, and to 20th overall in the actual draft.
Esposito was transferred to Atlanta Thrashers with Eric Christensen and Colby Armstrong and the 2008 first-round pick for Pascal Dupuy and Marianne Houssa just one year after they were drafted. He spent time at AHL and ECHL for five years before finally leaving North America. He had spells in Finland, Italy and Austria before retiring in 2016 after scoring 15 goals and 38 points in 31 matches for Cortina SG in Serie A (now in the Alpine Hockey League). Just nine years after being the expected first general pick, he was retiring to a lower-level league in Europe.
Esposito pursued careers in real estate investing and politics, running for the Conservative Party at Laval in 2019, and apparently has been playing hockey for a while.
Like Pouliot, it’s strange to think what would have happened if the penguins had gone a different path, as players like Max Pacioretty, David Perron and PK Subban chose below in the draft.
The prospects are very hard to predict, with guys like Esposito and Poliot, who have been so much promoting them, are getting worse than guys like Guentzel and Letang, who weren’t even picked in the first round, it’s crazy, and it’s all about development. While the Penguins have made some poor choices, they’ve also had their fair share of steals that have helped propel them to several Stanley Cup tournaments, so it wasn’t all bad.
THW pit penguins clerk. Twitter and Instagram: puckempire. Former writer for the Florida Panthers.