PITTSBURGH’S ALL-TIME DRAFT TEAM: WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER SCOREBOARD

Mario Lemieux. Sidney Crosby. Jaromir Jagr. Evgeni Malkin. Mark Recchi. And there’s plenty more star power, too. The Penguins’ all-time all-drafted team is a remorseless scoring machine.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin|USA Today

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin|USA Today

The Pittsburgh Penguins, you may have heard, have drafted some pretty good players over the years – and that all-time understatement is really driven home when you put the Pens’ picks together on an all-time all-drafted team.

The Penguins’ embarrassment of draft riches is most evident at the centre position, with a four-headed scoring monster in the human form of Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Lemieux and Crosby are in the conversation for the greatest player of all-time, and Malkin isn’t far behind. For the purposes of this roster, we flipped Malkin and Staal – so Staal slots in as the third-line checking centre, freeing up Malkin to go beast mode on opponents’ fourth-liners. But you could put these four players anywhere on the ice, maybe even in net, and they’d still light you up.

There’s a couple more legends at right wing, plus a Sutter for defence and ‘The Stash’ for style. Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi – who have combined for more than 1,300 goals and 3,400 points in nearly 3,400 NHL games – take the top two spots. Rich Sutter joins Staal on the third line, just in case this team ever needs to kill a penalty or, conversely, send a message and take a penalty. Blaine Stoughton, known for his moustachioed 50-goal seasons with the Hartford Whalers, gets to play with Malkin on the fourth line. There’s just nowhere to hide against this team.

The left side is dominant, too, though perhaps not quite at the same all-world level. Craig Simpson was a pure scorer and great skater, making him an ideal line mate for Lemieux and Jagr. That unit could put up 200 goals on its own. Markus Naslund didn’t break out until he was traded to Vancouver in one of the NHL’s most one-sided deals of all-time (sorry, Alek Stojanov), but he’ll have no problem pushing for 50 goals and 100 points alongside Crosby and Recchi. Shawn McEachern joins Staal and Sutter on the checking line, bringing a combination of (more) speed and (more) scoring, and he played with an edge, too, which is a quality that this team could use. Finally, Jake Guentzel skates with Malkin and Stoughton on a fourth line that, in any other universe, would be a first line.

The defence corps isn’t the same superstar calibre as the forward group, but it’s not like this team will have to worry about defending when they’re going to have the puck all the time. We tried to mix some offence and defence on all three pairings, and ended up with Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik on the top pair, Doug Bodger and Zarley Zalapski on the second pair and Rob Scuderi and Jake Muzzin on the third. Letang and Bodger get most of the power-play time – let’s face it, we’re looking at a one-defenceman, four-forward set-up when this team goes on the PP – while Orpik, Zalapski, Scuderi and Muzzin can handle penalty-killing duties. This group might give up a few chances, but these Penguins are going to win most games by a score of about 10-4 so the odd defensive breakdown shouldn’t matter too much.

In net, the choice was clear. Marc-Andre Fleury gets the starting job, with Matt Murray as the backup. Fleury won a Stanley Cup as a starter (and two more in a supporting role) and has a Hall of Fame career body of work, while Murray has two Cup rings and counting. They’re both clutch, athletic and acrobatic, and they’ve won it all on the NHL’s biggest stage.

Here are other players who were considered for the Penguins’ all-time all-drafted team. At centre: Martin Straka (19th, 1992), Pierre Larouche (eighth, 1974), Mike Bullard (ninth, 1980), Mark Johnson (66th, 1977), Greg Malone (19th, 1976), Maxime Talbot (234th, 2002), Richard Park (50th, 1994) and Doug Shedden (93rd, 1980). At right wing: Bryan Rust (80th, 2010), Tom Kostopoulos (204th, 1999), Rob Brown (67th, 1986), Alexei Morozov (24th, 1995) and Kasperi Kapanen (22nd, 2014). At left wing: Morris Lukowich (47th, 1976), Bob Errey (15th, 1983), Greg Polis (seventh, 1970), Ryan Malone (115th, 1999), Matt Moulson (263rd, 2003), Dave Hannan (196th, 1981) and Troy Loney (52nd, 1982). On defence: Ryan Whitney (fifth, 2002), Alex Goligoski (61st, 2004), Michal Rozsival (105th, 1996), Andrew Ference (208th, 1997), Olli Maatta (22nd, 2012) and Paul Baxter (49th, 1975). In net: Denis Herron (40th, 1972), Patrick Lalime (156th, 1993) and Greg Millen (102nd, 1977).

Here’s a look at Pittsburgh’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.

CENTRES
Mario Lemieux (1st, 1984)
Sidney Crosby (1st, 2005)
Jordan Staal (2nd, 2006)
Evgeni Malkin (2nd, 2004)

RIGHT WINGERS
Jaromir Jagr (5th, 1990)
Mark Recchi (67th, 1988)
Rich Sutter (10th, 1982)
Blaine Stoughton (7th, 1973)

LEFT WINGERS
Craig Simpson (2nd, 1985)
Markus Naslund (16th, 1991)
Shawn McEachern (110th, 1987)
Jake Guentzel (77th, 2013)

DEFENCEMEN
Kris Letang (62nd, 2005)
Brooks Orpik (18th, 2000)
Doug Bodger (9th, 1984)
Zarley Zalapski (4th, 1986)
Rob Scuderi (134th, 1998)
Jake Muzzin (141st, 2007)

GOALIES
Marc-Andre Fleury (1st, 2003)
Matt Murray (83rd, 2012)