Penguin prospect

Pittsburgh takes Almeida in NHL draft

The Pittsburgh Penguins chose only four players in the NHL draft.

One of them was forward Justin Almeida, who spent time in uniform for the Cariboo Cougars and Prince George Cougars.

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The Penguins selected Almeida in the fifth round (129th overall) on Saturday, the second and final day of the draft. This past season, he was a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors and put up 43 goals and 98 points in 72 games, numbers that had him second on the team to Brayden Burke (31 goals, 113 points in 61 games). In the Western Hockey League scoring race, Almeida was 10th overall.

The other players the Penguins added to their organization were: defenceman Calen Addison (Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL, second round, 53rd overall); forward Filip Hallander (Timra, Sweden, second round, 58th overall); and forward Liam Gorman (St. Sebastian Prep School, sixth round, 177th overall).

"With the picks we had I think we did really good," said Penguins director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin on the team's website. "We're excited about all four players that we brought into the organization."

Of Almeida specifically, Allvin said: "He's such a competitive player. For a smaller guy he finds the hard areas and he gets it done. He produces. The way he played this year will show that he has another level to go to."

Almeida is listed at five-foot-nine and 158 pounds.

"Excited to be drafted by such a great organization," he said on Twitter. "Thank you @penguins for the great opportunity!"

Almeida was born and raised in Kitimat but played his bantam hockey for the North Shore Winter Club. In the 2014 WHL bantam draft, the Prince George Cougars nabbed him in the first round, fifth overall.

In his first year of midget hockey, 2014-15, Almeida came back to the northern part of the province and skated for the Cariboo Cougars of the B.C. Major Midget League. In 35 games he scored 22 goals and added 25 assists for 47 points.

Almeida made the jump to the WHL with the Prince George Cougars the next season, and, in 48 games, had two goals and six points. The following season, 2016-17, he played 37 games for the Cougars (four goals, 13 points) before he was traded to Moose Jaw. In 33 appearances with the Warriors the remainder of that year, he recorded 15 points on seven goals and eight helpers.

In the transaction that saw Almeida go to Moose Jaw, the Cougars also gave up forward Yan Khomenko and bantam draft picks in 2017 and 2018 in exchange for forward Nikita Popugaev. The big Russian played 31 regular-season games for the Cougars in 2016-17 (seven goals, 18 points) and helped the team win its first-ever B.C. Division championship. Popugaev was back in 2017-18 but skated in just 13 games before he decided to return to Russia. He landed in the professional Kontinental Hockey League with CSKA Moscow but appeared in only 12 games and had one assist.

In total, 20 WHL players were selected in the weekend draft, which saw Swedish blueliner Rasmus Dahlin go first overall to the Buffalo Sabres. Dahlin played for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League last season.

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