Penguins First Round Draft Analysis
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t just host the 2012 NHL Entry draft, they were the stars of it.
With the 8th selection in the first round belonging to the Carolina Hurricanes, Penguins’ general manager Ray Shero swung a deal that sent Jordan Staal off to Carolina for the 8th overall selection, young two-way center Brandon Sutter, and prospect Brian Domoulin.
With the addition of Domoulin and the two first round selections that would follow, Ray Shero has amalgamated a stockpile of defenseman that is without question tops in the National Hockey League.
Let’s start by examining who Ray Shero and his staff selected with the 8th overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Derrick Pouliot – D – Portland (WHL) – 6’0 – 181lbs – Shoots L – January 16, 1994
In scouting, there’s something to be said for getting a long, hard look at one prospect throughout the year. Derrick Pouliot played the entire season in the same unit as current prospect Joe Morrow. Knowledge is power, and with Ray Shero and staff, they obviously felt strong enough about Derrick Pouliot that they were comfortable enough to take a shot at him that early. We personally had Pouliot ranked the 18th best prospect available, but as the first round would play out, the Penguins would later end up with Olli Maatta, who we had at 10, so things really evened themselves out in the end. Pouliot was selected amid a group of strong top flight talent, namely Cody Ceci, Filip Forsberg, Tuevo Teravainen, and Mikhail Grigorenko. That being said, the one thing fans need to understand is despite slight concerns, Derrick Pouliot is a great talent.
The first and primary attribute that stands out about Derrick Pouliot is his skating. Every movement that Pouliot makes on the ice can be defined as crisp. He’s extremely fluid, has great top end speed, and has a natural ability to skate his way out of danger. In 72 games played this past season, Pouliot registered 48 assists. That’s a tribute to both the talent of the Portland Winterhawks, who have a plethora of NHL prospects on their squad, and a testament to Pouliots vision and playmaking ability.
Pouliot might be a defenseman, but you’re going to find him deep in the offensive zone with regularity. He’s excellent at creating offense from his ability to get up the ice quickly. He can turn a rush into an odd man situation and still get back into the defensive zone to cover for his push up ice. Pouliot also surveys the ice well and, especially on the offense, has a high level of awareness. He seems to read the play well and, in the rare event that he does get himself into trouble, he can occasionally skate or dangle his with out of it.
The question mark in Pouliot’s game lies with his physical presence and his overall level of consistency. Pouliot can vary from shift to shift, especially in his own zone. His approach to the game sometimes makes him seem less engaged in what’s going on in his own zone, especially when he doesn’t have the puck. He’s a safe bet to take punishment and keep on ticking, but he’d also be better served to dish it out a little bit.
So, what does Pouliot translate into? I think if his development pans out in a best case scenario he’d be a bit of a Kris Letang or Dennis Wideman style of defenseman. His puck moving ability is a trait that is a must in today’s NHL, and it has the ability to set him apart from his peers within the system. His shot and game breaking ability is there, but a bit more consistency and physicality would round his game out nicely. With Bill Guerin running the ship, something tells us that might not be too much of an issue.
Olli Maatta – D – London (OHL) – 6’1 – 202lbs – Shoots L – August 22, 1994
When the Philadelphia Flyers stepped to the podium with pick 20, I was convinced that they’d take Olli Maatta off the board, and thankfully for the Penguins, he was bypassed. Maatta was one of the quickest risers in this draft class, and like Pouliot before him, he spent the year with another Penguins prospect in Scott Harrington. So, for the Penguins, here is another young man that they got a long, hard look at throughout the season. It was a surprise to us to see Olli Maatta make it all the way to 22 overall. We had him ranked at 10, central scouting had him ranked as the 8th best North American player, and the ISS had him in at 12, so no matter how you view it, the Penguins got an absolute steal on Maatta that late.
Maatta is a calm and composed prospect on the defensive side of the puck. He didn’t have as much hype as some of his peers based on the lack of flair inherent in his game. Maatta is not fancy by any means, but he’s also not just a defensive presence that is solid on the backend. Maatta is a great skater for his size, and is another one of these young defensemen that are great at moving the puck up ice. Maatta’s offensive skills don’t get showcased too much, but he does have an adequate shot and his vision and poise enable him to effectively distribute the puck. He exploded offensively in the playoffs for London and was a vital part of their run.
Maatta is a fantastic gap control specialist. It’s extremely difficult to beat him one on one, and he has what scouts would call a good stick. He’s great at disrupting the play when defending the rush and he does not give out much time and space to the opponent. Maatta’s defensive pedigree is higher than some of his peers because he played an entire year of pro hockey in Finland last year prior to arriving in North America. His game took some time to translate to the different style of play, but overall, Maatta consistently got better as the year went on.
For me, the NHL comparable to Olli Maatta might be Rob Scuderi. You hear a lot of comparisons to Ryan Suter, but I am not sure how Maatta’s game on offense translates to the next level. He’s the type of player that you don’t always notice a lot, and that’s a good thing. His game is about calm, poise, and he pays close attention to the defensive side of the puck first.
Brian Dumoulin – D – Boston College (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) – 6’3 – 205lbs – Shoots L – September 6, 1991
Perhaps the least talked about part of the Jordan Staal trade might turn out to be the biggest. Brian Dumoulin is a very jack of all trades type of defenseman that has 2 national championships under his belt already. Signing an entry level deal with the Hurricanes in April, Dumoulin is set to begin his pro career next year with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Dumoulin is coming off of a Hobey Baker nomination this season and a performance on the blueline for the United States in the 2011 U-20 WJC.
The first thing you’ll notice about Dumoulin is his skating. Despite his large stature, Dumoulin is extremely fluid and is a technician in all three zones. Dumoulin plays a very safe and cerebral style of hockey. As we previously mentioned, he’s capable of pretty much anything on the blueline. He can chip in offensively, distribute the puck, and take care of his own end with a decent sense of physicality and positioning. He played in the EJHL for one year prior to arriving at Boston College. Dumoulin was a shocking +90 in his career at Boston College, a testament to his ability to play at both ends of the ice.
Dumoulin’s window to the pro’s is short. The Penguins are acquiring him as he decided to forego his senior year of college and turn pro. Dumoulin is a player that, with his experience and poise, might even be able to play a game or two in the NHL later this year if the Penguins find themselves in a pinch. Drafted 51 overall by the Hurricanes in 2009, Dumoulin brings a bag of tricks with him to Pittsburgh that fans in WB/S will really enjoy watching next year.
With the addition of these three young defensemen, the Pittsburgh Penguins now boast the biggest and baddest defensive corps of any team in the NHL. Stay tuned to Faceoff-Factor as we continue to analyze and evaluate the Penguins draft class throughout the course of the next week.