Double sevens certainly can prove to be a lucky number in the world of gambling. And No. 77 was big on Pittsburgh’s first Stanley Cup team in 1990-91, considering it was worn by Norris Trophy winner and NHL All-Star Paul Coffey.
Making your first pick of the NHL entry draft with the 77th overall selection generally isn’t a recipe for success, though. By the time the Penguins are called to make their first pick, many hugs will have been shared and tears of joy shed by families who’ve seen their son’s childhood dream come true.
The Ottawa Senators will have already made six selections on the day by the time it finally becomes the Pens’ turn to make their first one.
Yes, technically, it is the 76th pick. The Arizona Coyotes forfeited their pick at No. 49 for violating the NHL’s combine testing policy. But let’s not argue semantics. The pick will still be listed forever in history as the 77th selection.
But They Got Kapanen Back
Now, the blue-sky apologists will spin this as Pittsburgh already got a first-round pick when the Penguins acquired forward Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the deal that cost Pittsburgh its first pick (15th overall).
It’s true. Kapanen was a first-round pick. Pittsburgh selected him 22nd overall in 2014 and traded him to the Leafs as part of the package for Phil Kessel before Kapanen ever played an NHL game.
In case you’ve forgotten how Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (46th overall) vanished, it went to the Vegas Golden Knights as the result of a trade on June 21, 2017 that ensured that Vegas selected Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft from Pittsburgh.
Seventy-Seven Reasons To Get Excited
The NHL draft didnt go deep enough to get to the 77th pick until 1969. But here’s the good news – that guy made the NHL.
The St. Louis Blues selected 77th in the NHL Draft. Former Penguins coach Scotty Bowman was GM of the Blues back then and he selected versatile Dave Pulkkinen of the Oshawa Generals. Pulkkinen was a left winger/defenseman, who would play two games for the original New York Islanders in 1972-73.
The following year, it was the Penguins who selected 77th and their pick also fashioned an NHL career. Brandon Wheat Kings center Bob Fitchner played 78 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques from 1979-81, scoring 12 goals. He also spent six seasons skating in the WHA.
Can the Penguins find a quality player with the 77th overall pick? They already did.
Pittsburgh selected 77th overall a second time during the 2013 NHL entry draft. They opted to select a left-winger from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, a fellow by the name of Jake Guentzel.
In four seasons with the Penguins, all Guentzel has done is produce two 20- and a 40-goal campaigns, earn an NHL All-Star Game selection, win two Stanley Cups and pot 25 goals in 45 NHL playoff games.
The Penguins also selected at No. 77 in 2016, taking Kitchener Rangers defenseman Connor Hall. They opted not to sign Hall and last season, he played Canadian University hockey at New Brunswick.
Chandler Stephenson, chosen No. 77 by Washington in 2012, won a Stanley Cup with the 2017-18 Capitals, and another 77th overall selection is still in the hunt for a Stanley Cup this year. That would be Tampa Bay Lightning left-winger Alex Killorn, picked 77th in 2007.
Overall, through 57 NHL drafts, 25 players selected at the 77th pick in their draft year have gone on to perform at least briefly in the NHL. That gives the Penguins a 43.8 percent chance in the NHL Draft odds published at Canada Sports Betting of finding someone who can play. Finding a player at 77 is an entirely different matter.
Besides Guentzel, the only other No. 77 picks who could be considered high-end NHLers would be Mike Rogers and Alexei Zhamnov.
Taken 77th by the Vancouver Canucks in 1974, after starring in the WHA, Rogers posted 100-point seasons in each of his first three NHL campaigns – the first two with the Hartford Whalers and the third with the New York Rangers. He potted a pair of 40-goal seasons.
Zhamnov was drafted 77th by the Winnipeg Jets in 1990. During an NHL career that lasted from 1992-2006, he collected one 30-goal season and scored at least 20 times on eight other occasions.