Draft Day: Penguins come up big with 7 choices
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Penguins selected seven players on the second day of the NHL entry draft, and all have something that distinguishes him from the rest.
One speaks no English.
Another plans to pursue a business degree at Michigan Tech.
A third isn't listed in an online database that appears to include just about anyone who ever played a game of organized hockey.
But everyone whose rights the Penguins claimed at Nationwide Arena yesterday shares at least three traits: None are European. None are expected to challenge for work in the NHL for at least a couple of years. And, most important, all are 6 foot 1 or taller.
And the latter, at least, is not entirely a coincidence.
"Obviously, you're drafting talent, you're drafting hockey sense, you're drafting character," assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "But all things being equal, you take the bigger guy if you can get him.
"That was a point of emphasis for our scouts. and we got some big kids. There's no question."
The Penguins' second-day selections, which include two players in both the third and fourth rounds and none in the seventh, were:
Keven Veilleux, a 6-foot-4, 202-pound center from Victoriaville (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).
Robert Bortuzzo, a 6-3, 196-pound defenseman from Kitchener (Ontario Hockey League).
Casey Pierro-Zabotel, a 6-1 205-pound center from Merritt (British Columbia Junior Hockey League).
Luca Caputi, a 6-2, 184-pound left winger from Mississauga (OHL).
Alex Grant, a 6-2, 185-pound defenseman from Saint John (QMJHL).
Jake Muzzin, a 6-2, 206-pound defenseman from Sault Ste. Marie (OHL).
Dustin Jeffrey, a 6-1, 205-pound center from Sault Ste. Marie (OHL).
Most, if not all, of the draftees are expected to participate in the Penguins' rookie camp that begins Tuesday, but management doesn't expect to see any of them in town on a full-time basis for at least a couple of years.
"The progression is going to be going back to junior, or going to college," general manager Ray Shero said. "That's perfect. It buys some time."
Veilleux, who had 20 goals and 35 assists in 70 games, speaks only French, so assistant coach Andre Savard was pressed into service as a translator for his post-selection interviews.
He said that Veilleux often is told that his style resembles that of Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, although Veilleux declined to predict when he might be ready to join Getzlaf at this level.
"He wants to improve his skating [acceleration]" Savard said.
Veilleux dropped from 16th in NHL Central Scouting's midseason rankings of North American forwards and defensemen to 33rd in the final ratings.
The only other Penguins draftee on hand to hear his name called yesterday was Pierro-Zabotel, who played Tier II hockey in British Columbia rather than major junior so that he could preserve his eligibility to play at Michigan Tech.
Pierro-Zabotel, 75th in Central Scouting's final rankings, professed that he "didn't really have high expectations going into the draft." Nonetheless, he likened his game to that of Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom, who makes a living absorbing punishment in front of opposing nets.
Although Muzzin has a history of serious back trouble that caused him to sit out the 2005-06 season, that doesn't explain why he didn't make it into the online database.
Of course, what really matters is that he is large enough that the Penguins weren't going to overlook him. Especially not in a year when coming up big carried so much weight with their scouts.
"I like the fact that we added some guys with size," Shero said. "At the same time, it wasn't a situation where, if there was a 5-foot-9 guy and a 6-foot-2 guy, we took the 6-foot-2 guy just because of size. Our scouts liked them. They happened to be big."
First Published June 23, 2007 11:49 pm