NHL Draft: A break with precedent
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Penguins general manager Ray Shero didn't take a checklist to Round 2 of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
Too bad, because he could have scratched off just about everything on it.
Before Saturday, Shero had become known in some quarters as a guy who didn't like to draft:
• Forwards with early round picks. Check.
• Europeans, regardless of position. Check.
• Goalies before the fifth round. Two checks.
Each of those perceptions was rooted in precedent. And each had been destroyed by the time the Penguins made their final selection as the sixth round was winding down.
And predictably, the Penguins, like the other 29 clubs, felt the two days of player selections had been time well-spent, because there's no such thing as a poor draft on the day it concludes.
"I thought it was really productive for us," Shero said.
While day two of the draft wasn't as volatile for the Penguins as Friday night had been -- really, did anyone expect pyrotechnics like the trades that sent away Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek? -- Shero and his staff did manage to shatter some of the stereotypes that had begun to surround their drafting tendencies.
They actually had chosen a European, Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta, with their second pick in the first round, but he plays in the Ontario Hockey League and was classified as a North American prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
But with their second-round choice, the Penguins claimed center Theodor Blueger, an alum of the Minnesota prep school, Shattuck-St. Mary's, that Sidney Crosby attended for a year.
Blueger was born in Latvia and spent his first 14 years there, but speaks English better than most natives because he attended an English-language school in his homeland before coming to the United States. He plans to attend Minnesota State.
"My best assets are my hockey sense, vision and passing and creating scoring chances for myself and my teammates," Blueger said. "At the same time, I'm a complete player who can play in all situations."
Not surprising, given that self-assessment, that Blueger tries to pattern his game after Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk.
Not long after taking Blueger, the Penguins invested third-round choices in Swedish center Oskar Sundqvist and, two picks later, Sault Ste. Marie goaltender Matthew Murray.
Sundqvist had eight goals and nine assists in 17 games with the Skelleftea junior team in Sweden; Murray had a 13-19-0-1 record, with a 4.08 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in the OHL.
Sundqvist, who is 6 feet 3, 172 pounds, said he grew up admiring Peter Forsberg and described himself as a hard worker who reads plays well.
Murray plays a butterfly style and hails from Thunder Bay, Ontario, the same place a hockey family of some renown -- perhaps you've heard of the Staals -- has its roots.
His primary influences have been Martin Brodeur of New Jersey and Montreal's Carey Price. And while Murray figures to spend next season with the Greyhounds and likely is years away from competing for a place in the NHL, the dearth of goalies in the Penguins organization means he already occupies a significant spot on their depth chart.
"You're always looking for the best opportunity to play at the highest level," Murray said. "[Marc-Andre Fleury] is definitely one of the best guys to learn from, so I think it is definitely a good spot for a goalie to be."
Murray was drafted earlier than any goalie in Shero's tenure, but doesn't hold that distinction by much because in the fourth round, the Penguins claimed goaltender Sean Maguire from Powell River of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
Before selecting Maguire, the Penguins had used another fourth-round pick on center/right winger Matia Marcantuoni, who plays for Kitchener in the OHL.
Marcantuoni is 5-11, 193 pounds and had nine goals and five assists in 24 games with Windsor of the OHL. Maguire was 17-12-1, with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
The Penguins wrapped up their draft by grabbing rugged defenseman Clark Seymour of Peterborough, another OHL team, in the fifth round and right winger Anton Zlobin in the sixth.
Whether he'll be productive as a pro is hard to say, but Zlobin, who was born in Moscow, already has recorded one career highlight: He scored the winning goal in overtime for Shawinigan in the Memorial Cup championship game against London this spring.
He is among several Penguins choices who earned at least a footnote in franchise history by defying one of their drafting trends of recent years.
A few years from now, it should start to become clear which, if any, of those prospects will make a significant mark in another way -- with what they do on the ice.
First Published June 24, 2012 12:00 am