The first night of the 2012 NHL Draft turned out to be a huge one for the Penguins in many ways. Not only is the draft at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, but they ended up making a huge trade that will dramatically change the complexion of the team.
The Pens dealt center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes and received center Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and the No. 8 overall pick, which they used on defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
The Penguins tried to keep Staal, but he made clear he wasn’t interested in an extension. Now that he’s in Carolina with his brother, he might sign one. For the Penguins, though, he was a year away from free agency, so rather than letting him leave after the season, the Pens got what they could.
Sutter, 23, scored 32 points, including 17 goals, for the Hurricanes last year. He’ll essentially replace Staal. He’s not as good as Staal, obviously, and isn’t even all that much younger than him, but he can be a decent third-line center who can do well on the defensive side of the ice.
Dumoulin, 20, was the Hurricanes’ second-round draft pick in 2009. He then starred at Boston College.
The Pens also received the No. 8 overall pick, and the package they got seems just fine, given that they didn’t have much leverage — everyone knew Staal wanted to go to Carolina and that he’d be a free agent in another year.
There’s also the separate question of whether Pouliot was the right player to take with the No. 8 overall pick, however. Most draft analysts regarded him as more of a No. 15-20 type of talent, so he might have been a reach at No. 8. Faceoff Factor’s Jesse Marshall:
That’s a huge reach. Pouliot scares me a little. Doesn’t always show up. Talented, yeah. But man. That’s a reach.
The first-overall pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam draft is lauded as one of the best playmakers in this crop. He makes a great first pass, and his offensive reads are strong, tools that have teams projecting him as a second unit power play QB. But, as one scout said, "there are times when it looks like he’s never played inside his own zone before." Learning to play away from the puck will be critical to his development, as will gaining the mental toughness to overcome what another scout called "teenage confidence issues — sky high one minute, gone the next."
Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko and other top players were still available when the Penguins picked. In fact, it's not impossible to imagine that Pouliot might have been available when the Penguins picked again at No. 22. The Pens deserve a measure of respect for being run well in the past decade or so, but right now, it’s hard to feel like they got the best player here.
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