Courtesy of Point Park University

Penguins double up on Quebec power forwards


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Nathan Legare is interviewed by Quebec reporters. -- DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Penguins were happy to pluck a physical winger out of the QMJHL during Round 1 of the NHL Draft Friday night.

So much so they traded up into the third round Saturday, surrendering three draft picks in the process, to land another.

They secured the 74th choice in the draft from Arizona and invested it in right winger Nathan Legare, who had 45 goals and 42 assists in 68 games with Baie-Comeau in 2018-19.

"He's definitely a guy we had a bit higher up our list," said Patrik Allvin, the team's director of scouting.

He is 6 feet, 205 pounds, which means Legare isn't quite as big as Samuel Poulin, the Penguins' first-rounder, who is 6-1, 207, but suggests they play a similar game.

"I'm a power forward who can bring offense, and I'm reliable defensively," Legare said. "My shot is one of my big strengths. Also, my physical game. When I finish my checks and when I protect the puck, it's all in my strength."

That sounds a lot like the scouting report on Poulin, and the similarity might not entirely be a coincidence. It turns out he and Poulin have been friends since they were seven or eight, when they played together on a team coached by Poulin's father, Patrick.

"Sam is one of my good buddies," Legare said.

And even though they are with different teams in the Quebec League, he and Poulin train together under the guidance of former Penguins conditioning coach Stephane Dube and ex-Penguins winger Ramzi Abid.

"We're going to push each other a lot," Legare said.

Legare's offensive numbers last season were significantly better than those in 2017-18, when he had 10 goals and 19 assists in 62 games.

"I was more confident this year," Legare said. "I made good plays on the ice because my confidence was there."

The Penguins obviously noticed, because they surrendered picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds to acquire the one used on Legare.

"It's special that Pittsburgh moved their picks (to acquire him)," he said. "It proves they want me."

Along with his physical play -- Legare is reputed to be an extremely effective forechecker -- he has earned recognition for his offensive instincts and repertoire of lethal shots.

"My shot is one of my big strengths," he said. "Also, my physical game. When I finish my checks and when I protect the puck, it's all in my strength."

Legare said he honed his shot when he was younger by launching pucks at a net positioned in front of his garage door, which absorbed more pucks than his parents might have liked.

"Sometimes, I miss the net," he said. "My dad was a little bit mad, but at the end, it paid off."

Like Poulin, his prospects as a pro will be affected by his ability to upgrade his acceleration, a soft spot in both of their games.

"The first three steps of my skating, that explosion, is something a lot of people say I need to improve, and I know I need to improve," Legare said. "It's something I need to work on if I want to make the next level."

It also is something he and Poulin can focus on together during the offseason, as they prod each other in the hope of someday wearing the same sweater in the NHL.

"I want the best for him," Legare said. "And he wants the best for me."

After the move, the Penguins currently have two picks remaining in the draft: A fifth-rounder (145th overall) and a seventh-rounder (203rd).

The Penguins' other four picks:

Samuel Poulin
Judd Caulfield
Valtteri Puultonen
Santeri Airola


[caption id="attachment_846339" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] NHL Draft weekend, Vancouver, British Columbia, June 21-22, 2019 - DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS[/caption]

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