Penguins notebook: Rutherford looking to bolster blue line
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Eight defenseman walked to the stage within the first 20 picks during the first night of the NHL Entry Draft on Friday at the First Niagara Center, but Penguins manager Jim Rutherford found no reason to fret.
He is confident he still will have a quality blue-liner to announce when he and his coworkers finally step on that stage Saturday for the Penguins’ two second-round picks.
Prospects that will bolster the Penguins’ defensive corps are high on the general manager’s wish list. Rutherford and his advisors get five chances to find the right fits during the final six rounds of the draft, starting with pick No. 55 and continuing with No. 61.
Because they traded away their first-round pick in the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto, the Penguins did not draft anyone on Friday.
“It’s a very, very deep draft,” Rutherford said. “Our guys feel good that we’re getting two good players that will play with the Penguins some day.
“I think based on where our organization is at, ideally we get at least one defenseman there, maybe two. But we’ll see how it falls.”
Only one of Rutherford’s three in-season trades cost the Penguins a draft pick: They gave Edmonton a third-round selection to acquire defenseman Justin Schultz just before the trade deadline.
Rutherford made retaining picks a high priority this season.
“Over the years, we’ve done it, traded a lot of draft picks,” he said. “We’d like to get more young players, so we were able not to move any picks. I mean, we moved the one for Schultz, but it paid off, and we’re still sitting in a good spot here for the second round.”
Rutherford indicated there’s considerably less urgency on finding forwards (centers or wingers) in this draft.
Rutherford said he and assistant Jacques Martin intend to meet soon after the draft to discuss a contract extension.
Martin, who moved into a role behind the bench after the coaching change in December, became the assistant in charge of the defense corps and the penalty kill.
“I’ll say the obvious: We want him back,” Rutherford said. “He wants to come back. I believe him and I are going to sit down next week and try to get everything ironed out.”
Some of the Penguins’ top prospects and latest draft picks will convene later this month in Cranberry, where the public can catch a glimpse at the team’s future.
From June 29 through July 2, the Penguins will hold their prospect development camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Among the skaters who will attend are forward Jake Guentzel and defensemen Ethan Prow and Lukas Bengtsson.
Guentzel, a third-round pick in 2013, made his pro debut after finishing his career at Nebraska-Omaha this spring and led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 14 points in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Prow, who led all NCAA defensemen in points during his senior season at St. Cloud State, and Bengtsson are two of the Penguins’ more promising young blueliners.
The Penguins will release full rosters for the camp closer to its start date, but the team ruled out appearances from Baby Pens forwards Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon.
Practices will begin at 2:10 p.m. on June 29. The schedule goes from 9:45-11 a.m. on June 30 and July 1. The camp will conclude with a three-on-three competition from 3-5 p.m. on July 2.
All practices are open to the public.
Last year’s development camp included Matt Murray, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Derrick Pouliot, Oskar Sundqvist, Sprong, Simon and Archibald, each of whom appeared in the Penguins’ lineup at least once.
The Penguins on Friday revealed their often hinted-at plan to return to “Pittsburgh Gold” as a uniform color and do away with the “Vegas Gold” they used from 2002 to this past season.
“Pittsburgh Gold” will be included in both the black home jerseys and the white away jerseys for 2016-17.