Over the next two weeks I will be writing a series that takes an in-depth look at the Penguins draft selections. Each article will cover the prospect’s strengths, weaknesses, and fit within the organization.
If defense wins championships, the Penguins should start planning downtown parade routes now.
Pittsburgh started off the 2011 NHL Draft in shocking fashion, selecting two defensemen with their first two picks. Offensive minded Joe Morrow was drafted in the first round while shut-down D-man Scott Harrington followed at pick fifty-four.
The London Knight’s defenseman tallied six goals and 22 points last season in the OHL. He also sported a plus-11 during the season and added three assists in 18 playoff games. At 6’1″, 207 pounds, Harrington is not the stoutest of defensemen. He plays a physical brand of hockey that is highlighted by his rugged play in the defensive zone. Solid checks are also a large part of his game. But, he will need to bulk up to carry his hitting to the next level.
Ranked well outside of Central Scouting’s top-100, Harrington was undoubtedly a reach. Once pegged as a first-rounder, his status dropped dramatically after a sub-par year with the Knights. Many scouting reports tagged him in the 60-90 range. He does not boast high-end skill but is able to lock-down defensively.
Offensively, Harrington’s game leaves much to be desired. While not fully incompetent, the Canadian-born blueliner will be largely absent from the score sheet. His true potential is as a puck mover. Breakout passes and back-end distribution highlight his transition game. He is not creative or elusive, but he is poised with the puck.
Quick off the blocks but not overwhelmingly fast, calling Harrington a strong skater would be an overstatement. The 18-year-old features decent mobility but is only average on his skates overall. Keep in mind the skating transformation that some Penguin defensemen have made in the past though.
By all accounts, Harrington’s bread and butter is as a defensive defenseman. He is rarely beat in individual battles and cleans up his own zone with authority. Reminiscent of Rob Scuderi, the defenseman logs big minutes and knows his limitations.
“He may not be as flashy as a lot of guys, but every NHL team needs a defenceman like Scott Harrington. He’s been good for me all year really, not just the last little while, and I’m going to continue to play him the rest of the way because we need those guys.”
-London Knight’s assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu
Harrington is also recognized as a smart player. Mistakes are few and far between and his overall hockey sense is above-average. He is capable of playing on the penalty kill and will pinch along the boards in the offensive game to keep the puck in. Each attribute contributes his reputation as a sound player. Perhaps the biggest positive with Harrington is that he got better as the OHL season progressed.
Brooks Orpik is a current Penguin who draws similarities to this year’s second round pick. Offensively, the styles are similar. Neither will change the game with their shot or skating ability, but both can effectively outlet the defensive zone. If anything, Harrington has more offensive potential than Orpik.
Defensively, Mark Eaton comes to mind. Harrington is sure in his own zone and rarely misses an assignment. He does bring a more physical style of hockey to the table, but he also will not block as many shots as Eaton did.
At this point, Harrington looks like a project. His skating and strength must improve and his offensive instincts are poor. In an already stocked defensive system, Harrington will have a tough time breaking into the NHL. He also will likely not attract many trade offers because of his subtle, bland style of play.
With Russian winger Nikita Kucherov still on the board, the Penguins second round selection is a bit confusing. Kucherov netted 21 points in 7 games at this year’s U18 Championships and appeared to be one of the more skilled offensive players in the draft. If Shero was aiming for the best player available, he missed by a wide margin.
You can check out my analysis on first-round draft pick Joe Morrow here.