Published on June 25th, 2012 | by James Conley1
Meet the Pittsburgh Penguins 2012 Draft Class
Penguins GM Ray Shero has made a career of carefully crafting the fringes of his team with low-risk draft picks and high-value free agent acquisitions in order to maintain the team’s core of centers, top defensemen and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
After the six-game playoff loss to Philadelphia, the core is no more. Jordan Staal was shipped to Carolina for three players, G Tomas Vokoun was brought to town to help create competition for incumbent starter Fleury and CBA drama threatens to change the salary cap in ways that might force sweeping changes on Pittsburgh’s current payroll.
Pittsburgh held seven selections heading into Friday. They acquired two additional picks, three prospects and C Brandon Sutter after trading Staal and Zbynek Michalek.
The 2013 iteration of the Penguins will be a vastly different one from the year before. Such an approach is a sharp departure from Shero’s past summers, but three straight postseason pratfalls have forced change.
8th Overall / D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) / 16 Jan 1994 (18) / 5’11″, 186 / LH
Pouliot is an offensive defensemen with puck-moving tendencies. Played with current Pens prospect Joe Morrow in Portland last season. Many draft rankings had Pouliot in the 15-20 range, but his skill set matches exactly what the Penguins value most in a defenseman. A trademark Shero asset.
In Pouliot’s second season, the Winterhawks slipped to second in the U.S. Division, finishing two points behind Tri-City, but again reached the WHL Finals. In 72 regular season games, Pouliot scored 11 goals with 48 assists and was plus-15 with 79 penalty minutes. In 16 playoff games entering the finals, he scored 3 goals with 10 assists and was plus-5 with 16 penalty minutes. Pouliot was ranked 12th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
22nd Overall / D, London Knights (OHL) / 22 August 1994 (17) / 6’1″, 183 / LH
Maata was regarded as a top-ten pick by many but fell to the Penguins at number 22, who held true to their draft philosophy and selected another blue-chip defenseman with their first-round selection. Maata joins Pouliot, Joe Morrow and Simon Despres as Penguins defensemen to be selected in the first round.
If it’s flair you’re looking for with Olli Maatta’s game, look elsewhere. Maatta is an extremely reliable defensive presence with a practical and safe approach to playing in his own zone. While he’s not a traditional bruiser, Maatta will sacrifice his body to make a play and keeps an excellent gap when one on one. Maatta can play big minutes in all situations and is a key piece to the London penalty kill. Maatta’s offensive instincts need to develop a bit more as he is slightly reserved with the puck and doesn’t take as many chances as he could offensively. He did blossom quite a bit offensively in the OHL playoffs, showcasing what he could possibly be capable of in the future. His first step needs improvement but overall he’s a solid skater that has no issue getting from one point to another. Maatta’s style of play can make him invisible on some nights, but his ability to safely move the puck and provide a steady presence on defense will make him a safe pick in the draft. A pro year of hockey in Finland last year makes him a very refined and intelligent defenseman.
52nd Overall / C, Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School / 15 August 1994 (17) / 6’0″, 171 / LH
Blueger is a product of Sidney Crosby’s alma mater and projects as a two-way forward with work ethic to outdo his skill set. A long way away from being an NHL product, the Penguins at least addressed their terrible lack of prospect center depth with the selection of Blueger.
Blueger likely played his way into being a mid-to-late round draft pick with a great Elite League, capped off by a dominating performance in the league’s final game. But Blueger is a bit of a rarity in that he will get to play at the World Juniors this year as part of Latvia’s team, and his performance in the world’s most closely scouted event will ultimately be the deciding factor on where he gets picked. Blueger is a dangerous offensive threat with great hands and playmaking ability, but really needs to fill out physically before he’s ready for the next level.
81st Overall / C, Skelleftea Jr. (Swedish Junior League) / 23 March 1994 (18) / 6’3″, 187 / RH
The second big center chosen by the Penguins in the 2012 draft, Sundqvist continued the Penguins trend of drafting centers, a noted weakness below the NHL level, and of drafting players 6’1″ or taller. After the Jordan Staal trade, James Neal, Eric Tangradi and Evgeni Malkin are the only Penguins forwards 6’2″ or taller. Sundqvist addresses both concerns.
Not much info available on the big center, but here’s what DraftSite.com had to say about Sundqvist,
83rd Overall / G, Sault St. Marie (OHL) / 25 May 1994 (18) / 6’4″, 160 / RH
Murray became Pittsburgh’s highest-drafted goaltender since taking Marc-Andre Fleury first overall in 2003.
Finding themselves short one player from Thunder Bay, the Penguins added another Saturday from the powerfully name hockey hotbed along Lake Superior.
The Penguins drafted Matthew Murray in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft, taking an Ontario Hockey League goalie who spends summers skating with Jordan Staal and his brothers.
…The Penguins chose Murray at No. 83. It was the highest the team had drafted a goalie since Marc-Andre Fleury was the first overall pick in 2003, and they didn’t take Murray merely for his hometown.
The NHL’s Central Scouting Rankings placed the 6-foot-4, 160-pound Murray just 18th among North American goalies. However, just five months ago, the midterm report had Murray ranked second only to Malcolm Subban, the first-round pick of Boston.
Murray, who uses a butterfly style, was 13-19-0 for Sault Ste. Marie with a 4.08 GAA. He was replaced as the starter midseason when the Greyhounds traded for an elite goalie, but he expects to be the team’s starter next season.
The Penguins hadn’t drafted a goalie since 2005, when they took Alexander Pechurskiy in the fifth round and Patrick Killeen in the sixth. So the 18-year-old Murray considered this a good place to develop.
“You’re always looking for the best opportunity to play at the highest level, right?” Murray said. “Especially having Marc-Andre Fleury here, he’s one of the best goalies in the league, one of the best guys to learn from. It’s definitely a good spot.”
Another good read on Murray from TBNewsWatch, who wrote that Murray was once ranked as high as the second-best goaltending prospect heading into this draft.
92nd Overall / C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) / 22 February 1994 (18) / 6’0″, 194 / RH
Possibly the steal of the draft, Pittsburgh nabbed their third center in Marcantuoni, a fearsome skater whom The Hockey Writers referred to as “the Usain Bolt of Hockey.” No Penguins selection generated more positive buzz than Marcantuoni. Injuries derailed his last season in Kitchener, leading to his slip in the draft order.
Matia had a start to his year that set him back and didn’t allow him to adequately show what he’s capable of. It began with a concussion and then a shoulder injury ended his season and he was never able to get his feet underneath him. He is an excellent skater with speed and quickness and he can close on the fore-check quickly or create open ice and separation for himself. He is a competitor and he gets involved physically and he engages fully in the competitive battles. With his skating he can make a big difference in the game and while he has utilized it mostly for offense to this point, it certainly can be a weapon to play defense and disrupt an opponent’s offensive thrust. He has a good shot and he will follow it to the net and pay the price to score. He is more of a player who receives the puck than delivering it and with the right compliment of line mates, his skills could be maximized. He has a very good skill set and being able to stay healthy should help him realize his potential.
113th Overall / G, Powell River (BCHL) / 2 February 1993 (19) / 6’2″, 180 / LH
The second goalie taken by the Penguins in the 2012 draft, Maguire will attend Boston University this fall.
Sean Maguire’s stock skyrocketed at Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft, as witnessed by the goaltender’s selection much earlier than projected — by host Pittsburgh Penguins.
While he’s looking forward to one day rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he won’t be modelling his game after Pens incumbent Marc-Andre Fleury.
Maguire wants to be Cory Schneider – end of story.
“I love how he plays, his athleticism,” said Maguire, who’s just finished his second excellent season with Powell River of the BCHL.
“He always finds a way to stop the puck no matter where he is on the ice. I think that’s the thing that I have the most in common with him. I’d like to compare myself to him if I could.”
Maguire, 19, was ranked 28th among North American goaltenders, but was the 12th goaltender taken in the draft, 113th overall.
“I was a little shocked actually than I went as high as I did,” said Maguire, who grew up and played off of his hockey in Powell River. “I guess there were a bunch of teams that were interested in me in the later rounds, but Pittsburgh decided to take me. It’s a dream come true. I don’t think I could have gone to a better organization. They’re growing and they’re going to be cup contenders again next year.”
Maguire had 17-12-1 record this season along with a 2.33 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and three shutouts. He also backstopped Team Canada West to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge in November in Langley.
143rd Overall / D, Peterborough Petes (OHL) / 18 May 1993 (19) / 6’4″, 205 / RH
Size, size, size. Pittsburgh continued its trend of selecting defensemen and of selecting big players by drafting Seymour, a 6’4″ bruiser who has the pedigree of a Deryk Engelland.
Seymour a big, physical, stay-at-home defenceman, was eligible in 2011 but didn’t get drafted.
“It was a pretty tough pill to swallow being passed over in the draft last tyear but I knew there was some hope this year,” he said. “You hear a lot of guys say it’s a dream come true and it feels pretty surreal. That’s exactly how it felt. I never thought I’d actually have the chance to be drafted to the National Hockey League and to have it come true is unbelievable.”
Seymour says it makes the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.
“There have been a lot of times where I passed up parties or events with my hometown friends to be committed to hockey or training. I spent a lot of weekends in rinks and hotels to get to this point so I’m grateful for that, it’s all paid off,” he said.
173rd Overall / RW, Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL) / 22 February 1993 (19) / 5’11″, 194 / RH
Zlobin tallied 40 goals and 36 assists for 76 points in 66 games last season for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. The high-scoring Russian forward was Pittsburgh’s ninth and final selection of the 2012 draft.
Of course, the question now is how much Zlobin’s Memorial Cup performance (5 goals, 9 points in 6 GP) will improve his draft stock. It shouldn’t really, but it only takes one GM to fall in love with “clutch,” one scout to become enamored with a “proven winner,” one internal echo chamber to preach the glory of the small sample size.
Then again, that’s not being fair to scouts and team managers. Zlobin isn’t in the top 120 for either the CSS or ISS, but every team has its own ranking. And after the glacial pace of the first day, the draft proceeds quite quickly through rounds two to seven, even though we dissect them for years afterward as if there was an encyclopedia of infinite hindsight available on draft day.
And when you get to the middle rounds of the draft, you’re not beholden to some scouting service’s ranking or some group of fans shaking their THN Draft Previews at you — you’re beholden to who you’ve picked so far, who’s left on your list of wants, and who you think will still be there when your turn comes up again in 30 or so picks.
If all these factors and a turn in the spotlight put Zlobin a little higher on some team’s radar, good for him.
Image AxsDeny @ flickr